The future of football itself was in the balance when Steven Gerrard finally retired from his career as a professional footballer. Luckily, the Liverpool legend wasted no time in getting back into the game, albeit at a lower level than the one in which he tore through as a player. Gerrard the captain became Gerrard the manager when Liverpool decided the Merseyside native’s services were still crucial to the club’s winning ways. And football’s quilibrium was restored before we even knew the danger existed.
Gerrard became the coach of Liverpool’s under-18 team last summer and has been getting his managerial feet wet at Kirkby this season. By his own admission, that transition from player to manager hasn’t been as seamless as Gerrard had first anticipated. But with a Jürgen Klopp around and an open-door policy, the kinks are being worked out and the ex-captain is finding his way on the other side of the touchline.
“There have been numerous times I have picked the phone up and texted, or been at Melwood and asked the question,” said Gerrard.
“He has already said in the media that the door is open for anything he can help me with. For me, that is gold dust.
“He is obviously a lot more experienced than me in what I’m trying to do. Any little bits and bobs I can get from Jürgen and his staff, or anything I see him doing, I obviously need to take it in and add it to what I’m already doing.”
Steven Gerrard knows a lot about football. He was very accomplished as a player, if you recall. But managing a team is a different kettle of fish. And it’s a great sign that Gerrard feels so supported at Liverpool by Klopp and the coaching staff at Melwood. Because Gerrard’s job at the Academy is important. He’s in charge of coaching the next big players coming through the ranks.
But Gerrard also has a unique power at Liverpool and in the broader footballing world that comes from his illustrious career. He’s a role model to many of the young players in his squad who have grown up with Liverpool Football Club. His experience as a player matters. His experience as a captain for club and country matters. And now he’s doing his best to make his experience as a coach matter. This is perhaps his greatest trial.
“You go out of your comfort zone,” Gerrard continued. “I’m not going to lie, at the beginning you are like a rabbit in the headlights. ‘What am I going to do?’ And it’s different.
“I’m enjoying the role and making loads of mistakes, but they’re off camera. Which is what [Klopp] suggested was the best move.
“Now that I’ve experienced it, that was certainly the right move from the beginning. I’m just trying to grow and learn and get used to a completely different role, and completely different job, to being a player. That has been the most eye-opening thing for me, how different it is to being a player.
“Now I’ve got more respect for managers and coaches. I used to think I was the best coach and manager in the world when I was a player. ‘What are you going that session for? Why are you doing this?’
“Now I apologise for all that and I realise how much of a difficult job it is for any coach or manager, because it’s a completely different ball game.”
Jürgen Klopp’s advice to Gerrard to work out his managerial hiccups out of the public eye has proven to be good guidance. Klopp knows that learning the job of football manager means learning to trust your instincts and the best way to do that is to work away from the spotlight where all the people everywhere are applying pressure.
“You need to get a resistance against that,” said Klopp, “you cannot always be in doubt about what you are doing.
“You cannot do what the people want, you need to do what you think is right.
“I’m really happy that Steven enjoys it because it doesn’t happen too often that a player of his size starts on this level. That’s why I always say it’s a job you have to learn.”