STEADY PROGRESS: Gerrard to focus on guiding Villa up the table
PA - Jane Barlow
Steven Gerrard has been tasked with delivering European football to Aston Villa but said his immediate aim was to steer them clear of relegation trouble.
Gerrard, who quit as Rangers boss earlier this month before signing a three-and-a-half year deal to replace the sacked Dean Smith, refused to set targets, but hopes to see Villa quickly start climbing the Premier League table.
Villa, European champions in 1982, take on Brighton at home on Saturday and sit 16th in the table, two points above the relegation zone after five successive league defeats.
Speaking at his first press conference as Villa manager on Thursday, Gerrard said: “Success in football is always about winning football matches.
“Long term, the club would like to be back at the European level, but I don’t think it’s the right time now to put any date on that.
“But for me, more importantly, it’s about focussing on the short term, which is Brighton at the weekend. We need to start winning football matches again and moving up the table.”
The 41-year-old also wants to make progress in the FA Cup, adding: “It’s about me putting my stamp on this team and that I can improve their standing in the league and have the FA Cup upcoming.
“Trying to have a successful run in the cup competitions and hopefully supporters will be in a better place, it’s not about me proving anything on a personal level, it’s about the club.”
Gerrard, who guided Rangers to the Scottish Premiership title last season, said the lure of the Premier League and to be closer to his family were the main two reasons behind his decision to apply for the Villa job.
“This is an extremely proud moment for myself from a personal point of view it’s a real honour to be the head coach or manager of this football club,” He said.
“The last seven to 10 days have gone extremely quickly and it’s been a really happy time for me because of the opportunity to be back in the Premier League and closer to my family.
“They were the two main reasons why this was the right move for me.
“The opportunity came to join another iconic club and it was an opportunity I couldn’t allow to pass me by.”
Villa chief executive Christian Purslow, managing director at Liverpool from 2009-10 when Gerrard was a player there, stressed the former midfielder had comfortably been the outstanding candidate for the job.
Gerrard began his coaching career in Liverpool’s academy before being appointed as Rangers boss in 2018 and his switch to Villa was described by Purslow as a “fantastic moment in this club’s history”.
Purslow said: “I think Steven’s arrival will reignite the club, push us forward.
“We have made no secret of the fact that this club is one of a tiny number of British clubs who have won the European Cup.
“That stage, playing in Europe is something that is an exciting dream for our fans. When that happens, we shall see.
“But what we expect and what Steven has promised to deliver is continued improvement in our team and I’m certain he will do that.”
Villa’s sporting director Johan Lange said Gerrard was chosen from a four-man short-list, which had been drawn from 20 candidates.
Many Villa fans will now be waiting eagerly to see which players could be attracted to the club during the January transfer window. Gerrard said Villa had “exciting players in the final third” but needed “to be harder to play against”.
With regards to the transfer window, he added: “I think it’s too soon. We’ll have private conversations. We’re always striving to be better in every department.
“It’s important we analyse the current squad we’ve got. We need more training time with the squad, we need more challenges in games and we can pick it up from there.
“But this squad has got all the structures in place, all the departments in place and conversations will happen in the background, of course.”
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