Steven Gerrard is enjoying the managerial ‘ride’ with Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
English football legend Steven Gerrard has never settled for mediocrity, and that’s not going to change in his role as Aston Villa manager.
The Liverpool great is about to embark on his first full season as Villa boss after taking charge of the underachieving club in November last year following a successful stint as Rangers manager, where he briefly went head-to-head with former Socceroos coach and current Celtic mentor Ange Postecoglou.
With Villa in bad shape on the English Premier League when he replaced sacked manager Dean Smith, Gerrard was able to steer the club to safety and a 14th-placed ladder finish.
But that’s not good enough for Gerrard, who among a host of other achievements has won the UEFA Champions League as a player and the Scottish Premiership as a manager.
And while lifting a trophy with Villa seems some way off, Gerrard is desperate to at the very least secure his club a top-10 finish in the 2022-23 Premier League season and further build from there.
To prepare for the upcoming campaign, Gerrard and his Villa squad are in Australia for Queensland Champions Cup matches against Leeds United at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday and Brisbane Roar in Townsville on Wednesday night.
From there Villa head to Perth to meet Manchester United in Perth next Saturday night before returning home to further prepare for their season-opening clash against Bournemouth on August 7.
“We’re delighted to be here,” Gerrard told News Corp Australia from the club’s Gold Coast training base.
“The facilities, the climate … everything’s perfect for us to work, and become stronger and better.
“We’ve got a really important couple of weeks ahead of us, with three exciting challenges from a game point of view, but most importantly being on the training ground doing the work and having the opportunity to rehearse how we want the season to look.
“We finished 14th on the table last season, but we believe Aston Villa should be operating at the higher end of the table.
“That’s a challenge because the Premier League’s the best league in the world, and it’s the most brutal league in the world, but we need to work hard across the board to improve and take Aston Villa to the next level.”
MOVING FROM RANGERS TO VILLA
As much as 42-year-old Gerrard loved his three-and-a-half-season managerial stint in Scotland, he wasn’t going to knock back the chance to coach in the Premier League.
“I really enjoyed my time at Rangers. We achieved what we set out to do, which was to win a 55th title and stop (Celtic winning) 10 in a row, but I always wanted to be back in the Premier League,” he said.
“When you get the opportunity to be at a huge club like Aston Villa, and have the chance to go up against the best coaches in the world and the best teams in the world, it’s a very difficult thing to turn down.
“That’s the reason why I took the opportunity and I want to make the most of that.
“I’m still very much new (as a manager). I’m trying to learn as much as I can, trying to evolve and trying to grow.
“There’s still a lot of areas where I can get better for sure, but I’m enjoying the ride so far.”
RESPECT FOR POSTECOGLOU
It’s a managerial journey that has included a brief battle with Postecoglou, who took over at Celtic in June last year.
While the pair weren’t coaching rivals for long, Gerrard is a huge admirer of Postecoglou, who in his first season in Scottish football guided the Hoops to Premiership and League Cup success.
“Ange did fantastically well. He came in with his own style. It took a little bit of time for him to implement that but once the players got used to that, they went on to win the league title and the League Cup as well, so it was a very successful season for him,” Gerrard said.
“He’s someone who I’ve got a lot of respect for and a lot of admiration for, and he’s done ever so well, so credit to him.
“He’s obviously got big experience. He’s had a lot of success throughout his career, and he comes across as a very humble guy.
“Obviously I’m Rangers through and through. I want Rangers to do well. I’m sure he appreciates that but from coach to coach, he’s someone that I’ve got a lot of respect for.”