gerrard:-villa-can-reach-europe;-i’m-not-focused-on-liverpool

Gerrard: Villa can reach Europe; I’m not focused on Liverpool

Steven Gerrard wants Aston Villa to be playing in European club competitions again and has quashed any hype surrounding his former club Liverpool by saying his new position is not a “stepping stone” to managing at Anfield.

In his first press conference as Villa boss ahead of the club’s clash with Brighton on Saturday, the former Rangers manager said it was an “honour” to have taken up the role and feels “extremely proud” to be a head coach in the Premier League.

His first task will be to rectify the club’s poor run of form, with the now-Norwich head coach Dean Smith having been sacked after five consecutive defeats with Villa two points above the relegation places.

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New Aston Villa head coach Steven Gerrard explains why he left his job at Rangers to join the Premier League side

After games against Crystal Palace (November 27), Manchester City (December 1) and Leicester City (December 5), the Liverpool legend will travel to Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp’s side on December 11, but Gerrard was quick to silence any excitement surrounding a return to his former club.

Gerrard said: “In terms of Liverpool, again I don’t think this press conference should be about any other club but Aston Villa, I think we have to show respect to our supporters.

“I think everyone knows all around the world what Liverpool means to me but my focus is very much on Aston Villa. I’ve said that I am all-in and I can promise our supporters that that’s the case.

“I think first and foremost it’s an extremely proud moment from a personal point of you, it’s a real honour to be the manager of this football club.”

Gerrard enjoyed a successful 17 years playing for Liverpool

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Gerrard enjoyed a successful 17 years at Liverpool

‘Villa job is not a stepping stone’

One of the greatest players in Premier League history, Gerrard returns to the English top-flight six years after calling time on his career at Liverpool, for whom he made 710 appearances between 1998 and 2015.

He has previously spoken about his dream to manage his boyhood club one day.

Addressing questions again about his longstanding relationship with one of Villa’s top-flight rivals, Gerrard said: “Everyone knows around the world what Liverpool means to me but my focus is on Aston Villa.

I pretty much knew what I was going to do because I knew it was the right move for me. I’ve missed the Premier League and it’s great to be back.

“You will never hear me say that it is a ‘stepping stone’ [to managing Liverpool]. For me, I am really proud and honoured to be in this position.

“I am all-in. I will give this job everything that it needs for it to be a success. I will be 100 per cent committed and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in football to have dreams and aspirations.

“They have got a world-class coach who they are very happy with. If he was to sign a lifetime deal right now, I would be very happy for them and him.”

Steven Gerrard

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Gerrard won the Scottish Premiership last season at Rangers and has set his sights on more silverware

‘Reaching Europe is Villa’s long-term goal’

Villa, European Cup winners in 1981/82 and Super Cup winners a year later, last reached the knockout stages of a European club competition in 2009 under Martin O’Neill when he guided them to the UEFA Cup Round of 32.

While Gerrard indicated that improving the Villa’s league position is his first priority, the new head coach insists the club can fulfil its potential at a continental level in the future.

He said: “Success in football is always about winning football matches first and foremost. Long-term I think the club would like to be back on a European level.

“I don’t think it’s the right time now to put any specific date on that but for me more importantly it’s about focusing on the short-term which is Brighton at the weekend, we need to start winning football matches again and moving up the table.

“We’ve got a challenging game at the weekend so I don’t really want to look too far ahead of that, but with the players we have got in the squad, we should be higher than where we are.

“So it’s one step at a time and we need that win as soon as possible.”

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‘It’s great to be back in the Premier League’

Gerrard joined Villa following three-and-a-half years at Rangers, who he says he left with a “heavy heart” after ending Celtic’s nine-year reign as Scottish Premiership champions.

Despite feeling sadness towards departing Ibrox, Gerrard admits the opportunity to manage in the English top-flight was too good to turn down.

The 41-year-old said: “Although the last seven to 10 days have gone extremely quickly, it’s been a really happy time for me because the opportunity to be back in the Premier League and the opportunity to be close to my family were the two main reasons why this was the right move for me.

“I pretty much knew what I was going to do because I knew it was the right move for me. The chance to be back in the Premier League, the best league in the world, to compete against the best coaches, against some of the best players. I’ve missed the Premier League and it’s great to be back.

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Rangers’ Steven Davis has backed Steven Gerrard to achieve success at Aston Villa, and says he’s confident the club will find a suitable replacement for him

“I think we’ve got a fantastic academy here, some fantastic staff that are doing a good job there. I have looked in from afar with the U23s side and the youth teams and they’re full of talent.”

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow also hailed the appointment as a “fantastic moment in this club’s history”.

He said: “We are thrilled to have Steven with us, the feeling is one of excitement, his drive and determination, his constant pressing himself to be the best he can be and these are personal qualities we think will fit in at this football club in this stage of our evolution.

“We were lucky enough to have numerous applications for this position – Aston Villa is one of the most prestigious jobs in football anywhere and for Steven to come through that and take this position is a fantastic moment in this club’s history.”