Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is back in the Premier League six years, leaving behind a Rangers side in a title defence in the Scottish Premiership and fighting to get out of their Europa League group in favour of a relegation battle with Aston Villa.
Gerrard, who returned to Liverpool as an academy coach after his playing days ended with a brief spell at LA Galaxy then headed north to Scotland to prove his managerial bona fides with Rangers, has signed on to manage Villa for the next two-and-a-half seasons.
“Aston Villa is a club with a rich history and tradition in English football and I am immensely proud to become its new head coach,” Gerrard said. “It was apparent how ambitious plans are for the club and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their aims.”
Their immediate aims with Gerrard in charge will be to steady the ship, as a Villa side many had predicted would finish in the top half has instead struggled to escape the Premier League’s relegation battle and find themselves just two points clear of the drop.
The longer term goal of manager and club for the project one expects will be to compete for the European places next season and, if they can manage that, maintain their league standing while going on a run—most likely in the Europa League—in 2023-24.
That would bring them to the end of Gerrard’s contract at the same time Liverpool’s with Jürgen Klopp is set to end, and it’s hard not to see the timing as something more than coincidence even if a short contract may make sense from Aston Villa’s standpoint.
Liverpool, though, will be loathe to avoid a situation like Manchester United’s with Ole Gunnar Solskjær or Chelsea’s with Frank Lampard, and the recent announcement of Michael Edwards’ departure suggests the club may already have a succession plan in place.
Some Liverpool fans would likely welcome him back as manager regardless, but realisitcally, for Gerrard to have even a chance of managing Liverpool in two-and-a-half years he will have to do something special at Villa in the time that he has there.
In the short-term, Liverpool fans will get their chance to welcome Gerrard back to the Premier League in a month, with Villa set to travel to Anfield to take on the Reds on December 11th in a match that seems far more meaningful than it did a day ago.