Many Aston Villa fans were against Steven Gerrard even before he walked through the door. Just as they had been opponents of Dean Smith and the work he had done to bring Villa out of the second tier and cement them once more as a Premier League club, much of the online fan base immediately let it be known that Gerrard was not the man for them.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that nine months later they’re still telling anyone who will listen that it’s time for the former Liverpool midfielder to be sacked. Apparently they don’t play like in 2011 in Barcelona. And 13th place after three games before this weekend’s games is apparently unworthy of Aston Villa.
Isn’t this the same club that went into decline for half a decade before finally being relegated in 2016? And weren’t this group of fans guilty of harassing Steve Bruce – cabbage and all – until he was sacked for *grades checks* taking the financially-troubled club to a play-off final?
Even when Smith took them over after a sensational run in the second half of the 2018-19 season, then kept them in the top flight the following year before taking them to mid-table again 12 months later, fans de Villa couldn’t wait to see his back the second they had a series of rough results. And now they are there with Gerrard.
Certainly, the title winner with Rangers in 2021 still has a long way to go to prove himself at the highest level, but what are his chances of succeeding at Villa if he has only a few months left to prove his worth? The club’s notoriously impatient fan base would do well to remember that they are in 2022, not 1982. They have no divine right to be a challenge at the top of the English and European game. If Gerrard is still in charge at the end of the season and Villa finish 11th, that would be commendable progress.
Some claim that Gerrard had a ready-made team to work with, a group that Smith had done well to build but just couldn’t hear of. But why ask a new manager to work with a team that doesn’t match his identity? Of course, a head coach’s main job is to get better performance out of what they have at their disposal, but really the modern game is more about bringing in a boss who recruits players whom he himself can identify and whom he trusts to carry out his orders.
SMITH MADE GREAT PROGRESS BUT WAS UNDER-LOVED AT THE VILLA
Gerrard has been battered by the injury of new signing Diego Carlos, while his comments about Tyrone Mings ‘looking me in the eye’ to help win back a place were misguided but over the top. He wanted a fitter Mings, with a better mindset, which isn’t too much to ask of a manager.
Gerrard has picked up 38 Premier League points in 30 games as manager so far. That’s an average of 48 points per season, a total Villa have only beaten once – under Smith in 2020-21 – since 2010. This is by no means an example of someone not responding to realistic expectations, it smacks more of a group of supporters struggling to come to terms with the reality of modern football. Unless a nation-state buys your club, ranking progression is often slow.
At Rangers, Gerrard took a club that had been unsuccessful since being liquidated in 2012 and built them into a solid team on both the home and European fronts, taking Gers to increasingly impressive finishes in Europa League and leading them to an unbeaten title. -winning campaign in 2020-21. He was not judged on his first 12 months alone, he had time to see his plans develop and Rangers are still feeling the benefits of his work to this day. He was also thrown into doubt following Villa manager Mick Beale’s departure to become Queens Park Rangers boss, but Gerrard has yet to have time to readjust to the loss of his valued member of staff during of his first full season in this role.
He might not be successful in the long term at Villa. Those who lined him up for the Liverpool job in the years to come may never see that vision come true. But the least he deserves is time. That’s what the Villa board stuck to when they signed Gerrard, and fans will have to go for now.
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