Steven Gerrard has rejected any suggestion that he views the Aston Villa job as a stepping stone to the manager’s role at Liverpool, saying he would be happy to see Jürgen Klopp stay in his position for life.
Speaking in his first press conference since leaving Rangers to replace Dean Smith at Villa Park last week, Gerrard made a point of requesting that his new employers should be the focus of conversation. But it was inevitable the subject of Liverpool, a club he previously admitted it would be a “dream” to manage having spent almost three decades there as a player and academy coach, would arise and he sought to distance himself from any idea that his long-term ambitions lie at Anfield.
“Very unfair,” he said of the perception that he merely sees Villa as a stop on the road. “You’ll never hear me say it’s a stepping stone. I’m really honoured and proud to be in this position, I’m all in and I’ll give this job everything it needs to be a success. I’ll be 100% committed.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in football with having dreams and aspirations. But Liverpool have a world-class coach that they’re very happy with and if he was to sign a lifetime deal I would be very happy for them and him.”
Gerrard will face Liverpool and Klopp in his fifth match in charge at Villa, who travel to Anfield three weeks on Saturday. He explained the pair live near one another, bumping into each other regularly; their reunion has been keenly anticipated to the extent that he has committed its date to memory.
“He’s a great man and a great coach,” he said. “I think Liverpool are very lucky to have him at the help and I’m a Liverpool fan so long may that continue. He sent me a message and said he’s looking forward to a big hug on the side on 11 December so it’s something for me to look forward to.”
Brighton’s visit on Saturday will be the first test of Gerrard’s tenure and he said Villa, 16th after five straight defeats, would bear his imprint from the word go. “We are going to play slightly different to what’s been before,” he said. “I want to put my own stamp on things, my own identity and our philosophy. That will take time so you will see some changes in how we go about that at the weekend. It’s a new start, a fresh start.”