Steven Gerrard in life after Rangers confession as he makes Aston Villa claim

Former Rangers manager Steven Gerrard
-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)

Steven Gerrard has defended his record at Aston Villa and claims he went to the 'next level' after leaving Rangers.

Liverpool icon Gerrard was tasked with stopping Celtic from winning ten-in-a-row when he was handed his first managerial job at Ibrox six years ago. A legend on the pitch but a rookie in the dugout, Gerrard inherited a mess in Govan and endured a tough couple of seasons as Celts romped to back-to-back Trebles.

But Gerrard did what he was brought in to do by making Rangers Kings of Scotland again and ending Celtic's dreams of securing eternal bragging rights by doing the Ten. It was his only trophy from a possible nine in Scotland but it was the most important triumph as he led Gers to an unbeaten Premiership triumph and their first title in a decade.

The feat caught the attention of clubs down south and Gerrard was soon offered a route back to the English Premier League as he took over at Aston Villa in November 2021, ending his three-year reign in Glasgow. However, unlike at Ibrox, Gerrard wasn't afforded much patience by the Villa board and he was sacked after just 11 months in charge - winning just 13 of his 40 games.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Gerrard was asked about that bitter setback and whether his move to Saudi Arabia with Al-Ettifaq was about rebuilding his managerial reputation. He said: "I respect that opinion. I don’t think it’s unfair. I don’t think it’s too harsh because when you suffer a set-back and a knock you have got to look yourself in the mirror. You’ve got to have a look at where you have gone wrong and try and improve.

"So, of course I want to bounce back from that. But I didn’t want to jump into something that didn’t feel right and take an unnecessary risk when I am a young coach. I’ve had success up to a certain point. I actually felt my own performance at Villa was really good. I actually felt I went to the next level in terms of what I had learnt from Rangers. I felt like I had grown.

"But we had a bad run of results. I have to own that and take full responsibility for that. I have to learn from my mistakes. Maybe do things slightly differently and grow and evolve. That’s the only way you can move on from a setback or a knock."

Although not one of the 'Big Four' clubs funded by the SPIF, Gerrard has still spent significant sums bringing famous names like Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum to Al-Ettifaq. The England legend also has former Celtic pair Jack Hendry and Moussa Dembele on the books as he aims to improve his CV in the Middle East. It's a club where Gerrard feels at home and the project reminded him of that at Rangers.

He explained: “Yes, but I am not someone who likes to blow my own trumpet. I am not someone who PRs myself. Yeah, big name. I played in the Premier League and have been successful in terms of my career as a player. But I think the opportunities to go straight back in quickly when I probably wasn’t ready, they were high-risk, really high-risk in terms of they could again have been a tough knock if it wasn’t the right opportunity.

“So, I needed to sit down with people who shared a lot of things with me, maybe in terms of wanting to build something, in being given a little more time… that felt a bit more like Rangers. Now, I am not comparing clubs and sizes but in terms of a project. Can you build something special? Can you build a team? Can you build an infrastructure? Can you give academy people opportunities? Can you share your experiences and let people grow?

“For example, I was offered the chance to go back into the Premier League late on, where a team had very little time to go, where a team needed to have that lift and that reaction. But if I didn’t get that reaction and they went down it would have felt like another blow on the back of Villa.”