Don’t take Villa job, Gerrard: Neil Humphreys
Rangers boss should stay put and wait for Liverpool job to become available
Apparently, it's pre-ordained. Steven Gerrard will succeed Juergen Klopp at Liverpool.
Like an episode of Game of Thrones, with fewer dragons and more Scousers, the red crown must be passed, bloodlessly and inevitably.
But as another Liverpudlian famously sang, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, like trying to win a domestic Double with Rangers or avoiding the carrot being dangled over Villa Park.
Nothing is pre-ordained. Life gets in the way. The Aston Villa job is a stepping stone one minute and a poisoned chalice the next. Just ask Dean Smith.
A few months after steering his boyhood club to their highest English Premier League finish in a decade, Smith was sacked. Five consecutive defeats will do that to anyone and Gerrard might ponder the lessons of history before considering the Villa job he is heavily linked with.
For a rising manager expected to return through the Shankly Gates at some point, the stepping stone narrative appeals for obvious reasons.
Villa spent £85 million (S$154.8m) in pre-season and boast generous owners, a tremendous fan base and a relatively youthful squad - like Gerrard's Rangers.
Smith's successor, whoever he may be, will not inherit a basket case.
Beating the drop, stabilising the club through a couple of transfer windows and then pushing for Europe are realistic aspirations. For Gerrard, there's a chance to assert his coaching credentials in the EPL before heading to Anfield.
The homecoming hero tale always captivates because it's relatable, a universal feel-good story about returning to one's place of origin as a better man. What's not to like?
A similar career path once appealed to Bryan Robson. He kicked off his managerial career at a middle-tier club (Middlesbrough) with the hope of eventually finding his way home again (Manchester United).
It didn't happen. There were too many managerial exits, via mutual consent, too many near misses. It didn't happen for Roy Keane either, another club legend who never navigated a route back to club manager.
Keane's temperament got in the way. Something always does.
EPL management careers do not move in neat, straight lines, calling in at pre-determined stations on an immovable track. Gerrard doesn't automatically visit Liverpool, LA Galaxy, Rangers, Villa and Liverpool again on a round-trip ticket without incident. There are always obstacles.
Frank Lampard took a shortcut from Derby County to Chelsea and the move still backfired. The Blues legend lacked tactical experience in key games, despite his impeccable playing pedigree, making a second return to the Stamford Bridge dugout extremely unlikely now.
Lampard, Robson and Keane were mostly denied the rare luxury of time and distance away from the relentless EPL spotlight to develop their respective crafts and build squads over several years, before taking managerial jobs of a bigger magnitude.
Gerrard has that luxury, as long as he stays at Rangers.
He also has the space to make mistakes without the kind of unremitting pressure that has already forced five EPL managers out of their jobs just three months into this season. He faces different challenges, but they are, well, manageable.
Rangers' form has dipped this season, which is hardly surprising after finishing the previous league campaign unbeaten. Supporters expect the Double this time around. Europa League consistency remains elusive. But these are evolving goals for an evolving manager.
At 41, Gerrard remains a work in progress.
He's still learning, by his own admission, and is able to do so with a degree of patience that he can never be granted at Villa.
Covid-19 was a false dawn. Empty stadiums and precarious finances reduced the volatility in the stands and the sackings in the dugouts. That's gone now.
Those five EPL sackings are a vicious indicator of normal service resuming and a reminder of the precious commodity that Gerrard has at Rangers. Time.
He'll never be in such a privileged position again, not in the EPL, at least.
The Villa job is only a stepping stone as long as Gerrard keeps his footing. If he falls, he takes any chance of managing Liverpool down with him.