Aston Villa have appointed a bona fide Premier League legend with the announcement that former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has been hired as the club’s new manager.
The former England captain replaces Dean Smith, who was relieved of his position in the wake of last Friday’s 1-0 loss against Southampton — the team’s fifth consecutive league defeat.
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Gerrard has been hired by Villa on a three-and-a-half year contract, thus bringing an end to his successful three-year stint in charge of Glasgow giants Rangers.
Welcome back to the #PL, Steven! 👋
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 11, 2021
The 41-year-old delivered Rangers’ first Scottish league title for 10 years in his final full season in charge at Ibrox after going the entire campaign unbeaten.
In a quirk of the fixture schedule, Gerrard will also be returning to Anfield in relativity short order too with his new Villa side set to travel to face Liverpool early next month.
𝟭𝟭𝘁𝗵 𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭
Anfield welcome Steven Gerrard home 🤗 pic.twitter.com/depv74O33g
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 11, 2021
Liverpool face Rafa Benitez’s Everton (Dec 1) and Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa (Dec 11) within the space of two weeks! Narrative overload.
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) November 11, 2021
Presume Steven Gerrard is the first Aston Villa manager whose stood in the Villa Park away end. pic.twitter.com/4siRa3TOeQ
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) November 11, 2021
There is plenty of history between Gerrard and Villa, with the saddest episode for the new boss dating back to his final season as a Liverpool player.
Having announced midway through the 2014-15 campaign that he would be leaving the club that summer and with Liverpool already out of Europe, Gerrard was hoping to bow out by winning the FA Cup in what would his last appearance for the club in the 2015 final, which just so happened to fall on his 35th birthday.
Unfortunately, Aston Villa duly dumped him out of the competition in the semifinals, winning 2-1 at Wembley on April 19. Philippe Coutinho had given Liverpool the lead but goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph — as well as an eye-catching display from a young Jack Grealish — broke the Liverpool skipper’s heart.
This didn’t stop the Villa fans from revelling in Gerard’s galling disappointment on the day of the final, with supporters gleefully chanting his name as they made their way back to Wembley for the final the following month. Some even threw him a birthday party for him on the train down to London.
Aston Villa fans throw a party for Steven Gerrard’s 35th Birthday whilst on their way to Wembley. pic.twitter.com/pAVcY5Dpr9
— unfortunate football moments (@unluckyfootie) May 30, 2015
However, it wasn’t long before Villa got their comeuppance too as Arsenal well and truly obliterated them 4-0 in the final.
Still, Gerrard very much got the better of Villa over the course of his Premier League career. The 12 goals he scored against the West Midlands club were more than against any either team in the division, and included his first league hat trick for Liverpool in March 2009.
Gerrard departs Rangers having achieved what he set out to do, delivering a long-overdue league title in 2020-21, preventing rivals Celtic from winning 10 in a row as he did so.
Not only that, but Rangers became unbeaten champions, winning 32 and drawing six of their 38 matches en route to the title.
He may have gone into the job as an absolute beginner, but Gerrard quickly restored pride at Ibrox.
Villa fans — regardless of their past relationship with the man — will no doubt be hoping for more of the same.