DANNY MURPHY: Gerrard has taken a risk but that shows his self-belief

DANNY MURPHY: Steven Gerrard has taken a risk by taking Aston Villa job but that shows just how much self-belief he has (and you cross him at your peril, as I discovered!)

  • Aston Villa have appointed a proper leader and winner in Steven Gerrard
  • It would have been an easier decision to stay at Ibrox and win plenty of trophies
  • Now faces a much harder challenge in the Premier League and he will be ruthless

Steven Gerrard was my room-mate and a good pal at Liverpool. He was also three years younger than me so when Gerard Houllier made him captain I thought I’d be immune from any rollockings. 

All that changed dramatically in a game at Leeds when I miscontrolled one of Stevie’s passes and then pinned the fault on him.

To my amazement, he monstered me there and then. ‘Don’t you blame me — sort your own f***ing game out. It’s not good enough.’ He was absolutely right, so there were no long-term hard feelings on my part.

Steven Gerrard will have an ally in CEO Christian Purslow, who worked with him at Liverpool

What that moment taught me was that my mate was no longer a kid with bags of talent but emerging as a proper leader and winner. That’s who Aston Villa have appointed.

Stevie has never been one for chit-chat for the sake of it. He chooses when to speak or make an intervention but when he does, everyone listens. He will give the Villa players a fair chance but if he feels anyone isn’t getting on board and it’ll hurt the club, he will be ruthless. They won’t have a first-team future.

I still smile when I remember El Hadji Diouf trying it on in the Liverpool dressing room. Stevie was first over there to remonstrate and we had to pull them apart.

It showed how much he cared about the game and doing things right. He has made mistakes on and off the pitch but importantly has learned from them and I am excited to see what happens next.

It would have been an easier decision to stay at Rangers and win plenty of trophies

I didn’t think he would go there when the vacancy came up. Having visited him at home last year to interview him for this newspaper, I know how emotionally involved he was in Glasgow.

The easiest decision would have been to stay at Ibrox, win plenty of trophies and gain Champions League experience, which would make him a leading candidate if the Liverpool job became vacant.

Villa is a far harder challenge because of the competition in the Premier League. So many clubs have world-class managers, super-wealthy owners, or both. By taking on the challenge, by taking a risk, Stevie has reminded me of what a confident and driven person he is.

I probably under-estimated that self-belief.

Gerrard faces a far harder challenge in the Premier League and he will be ruthless

Yes, he could win trophies and reach the Champions League with Rangers but he’ll be aiming for the same at Villa. It will be a slower process. The first task is to tighten up at the back and stop a run of five straight defeats, but he would not have gone if he didn’t think he had a chance of being competitive.

The owners I am certain will have given him assurances about signing players and he will have a staunch ally in CEO Christian Purslow, who worked with him at Liverpool. I imagine his family will be happy to see more of him. He’ll have a decent platform at Villa as well. Over time he’ll have to improve the squad, of course, but Emiliano Martinez, Tyrone Mings, Douglas Luiz, Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins represent a decent spine.

I also think he’ll like Emiliano Buendia, who hasn’t pulled up many trees after joining Villa from Norwich.

I’ve seen a lot of Buendia and he’s always looking for the ball and trying to use it to impact games — Stevie will like that.

In my Liverpool team, Jamie Carragher was the one you thought would become a manager because he knew everything about every player and team. But Stevie improved his communication skills as captain and despite Rafa Benitez’s reluctance to play him in a more central defensive midfield role, I’ve no doubts about his tactical ability.

Stevie excelled in so many different positions as a player — it wasn’t only to do with his athleticism and technical skills — you have to read a game, too. To sit deep all the time would have been a waste of his talents.

I remember the skinny young kid who didn’t bat an eyelid about getting in the Liverpool first team, even though his competition was established England internationals Paul Ince and Jamie Redknapp.

He’s a smarter person now, a more rounded individual, but that innate self-belief is still there — and that’s why I believe he has taken on the Villa job.

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