The Risky Business of Steven Gerrard’s Dual Task

Good Bad and Ugly of Villa’s Week

With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…

By Phil Shaw

Best laid plans and all that…

The Good

‘Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened’ and all that.

I’m not going to do a love letter to Dean Smith this week. That was done on his third anniversary a few weeks ago.

I think it’s sad Dean Smith has gone, but now Aston Villa are a proper Premier League Club again.

What I mean by this, is they’re just like everyone else. The unique selling point of Captain and Manager being boyhood supporters, was what elevated the Villa project above the rest.

When things were going well, this is what gave the fans hope. The hope, that Villa could break the monopoly of the Super League Six, doing things their way.

Oh, well.

Villan of the Week

Steven Gerrard – The first photos of Villa’s new Head Coach may seem like a photoshop job and his first interview video, a deep fake, but the almost surreal event of seeing ‘Mr Liverpool’ Steven Gerrard in Villa attire has certainly upped the intrigue of a season that was starting to fizzle out a little.

The Bad

In the fallout from Dean Smith’s departure, there’s been an outpouring of sadness and shock from traditional football sources.

But is anyone truly shocked?

The Premier League isn’t football. It’s a shady business.

The dream ticket was Smith and Grealish, sticking it to the big boys and smashing up the status quo.

It was the poster image for traditional footballing methods against the Premier League establishment.

The second Grealish jumped ship, the dream died, but as fans we still clung onto the remnants of it, believing the dream augmented and not killed off.

Grealish went, Richard O’Kelly went, John Terry went. Different coaches came in.

While we were obsessed with the Grealish transfer saga, the supposed upgrade of the Villa machine was happening behind the scenes.

More and more parts got added to the simple machine that had come up from the Championship and survived.

Johan Lange, Rob Mackenzie and others came in at recruitment level and coaching wise Ian Danks and Austin MacPhee joined.

Was this the same Aston Villa that Dean Smith took over, or even last season’s relatively successful Villa side?

No, it isn’t, and that’s why I’m not surprised he’s gone at the first sign of unexpected adversity.

The Aston Villa we see now, isn’t based on traditional Football. It’s based on the practicality of the Premier League.

A practicality that isn’t concerned about credit in the bank.

Did Aston Villa’s hierarchy really think that Dean Smith was still the long-term philosophy when there was so much change around him?

Smith was the last piece of the coaching set up that they may feel hasn’t been upgraded since the Championship. He was one of the last pieces of the ‘Ship of Theseus.’

I only wrote last time about the job title of Head Coach and how it is a cog in a larger machine.

Now Aston Villa have to hope that they haven’t wasted time and money upgrading every part of the machine to end up with something inferior to the original.

Big Christmas Discounts Below

The Ugly

The uncertainty that appointing a new manager brings always has the potential to turn ugly.

As if Football wasn’t tribal enough, the search for a new boss has fans of the same club drawing battle lines.

Would it be a hipster’s choice, with tactics and data coming from every whiteboard, or will it be a dinosaur on the tactical side that steadies the ship?

You could get the manager with the best track record across Europe for the job and suddenly find out they can’t learn the ‘intensity’ of the Premier League.

You could get an ex-player who came across as a thug on the pitch, but just has the x-factor that’s needed to translate instructions to the players.

Every scenario has the potential to be inspired or a disaster.

The truth is nobody will be happy and nobody knows what will work.

Steven Gerrard coming in has certainly split opinion and initially will be considered by many Villans as a gamble by Christian Purslow. Although perhaps a gamble worth taking.

Is it a gamble Aston Villa needed to take mid-season?

Time will tell, but the run of form cited by Purslow from the beginning of 2021 is hard to ignore.

For a team that has lofty ambitions, averaging just over a point a game may be enough to keep you in the division, but little else.

Gerrard needs come in and be the best of both worlds.

He needs to be the firefighter that can arrest or identify the causes of the alarming drop in performances, and also set his sights higher.

Usually, managers have a reputation for being one or the other.

In hindsight, Tim Sherwood was the right man for six months, but he should never have been trusted with a full rebuild.

Martin O’Neill was appointed for the specific purpose of getting Villa to the Champions League and failed.

When it looked like he might have to fight a few fires, he left.

One thing is certain with both the expectation of Aston Villa’s owners and the current lowly league position, Villa can’t afford to make the same mistake they did when changing manager in 2015. Let’s hope Gerrard is more like the 2018 change in terms of impact.


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  1. For reflections on the state of the Villa, MyOldManSaid is excellent. I don’t look at anything else, apart from the Guardian (& listen to what is said on MotD). Until very recently, we were getting an appraisal of how things had gone, how the players had done, the next day. Now it’s days! I’m sorry but I don’t have time to listen to the podcast & I don’t do Twitter … any chance of getting something up on the website a bit quicker than we have seen recently?

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