Gerrard proves that great players rarely make the managerial grade

ASTON VILLA are without a manager, their fans must be wondering who will take over from Steven Gerrard as their club battles to stay clear of the Premier League relegation zone. While Gerrard is now out of work, probably not for too long, Villa start the process all over again. There’s two sides to every managerial story, although all the talk has about what comes next for Gerrard, an inexperienced manager at the highest level.

His dismissal, as inevitable as the demise of Prime Minister Liz Truss, brings to an end the assumption that Gerrard was the Liverpool manager in waiting, the natural heir to the Klopp throne. A great player, a local lad, returning home to begin the next stage of his marriage to Liverpool Football Club. That was the script.

Gerrard was one of the best players of his time, a genuine class act among the mis-named “golden generation” that achieved nothing for England. But great players do not necessarily make decent managers – the list is endless and there’s a number of reasons. Players are managed by people who tell them what to do, there’s something almost militaristic about being a pro. But being the man in the suit changes everything and you become the “gaffer” telling others what to do. Quiet men and deep men struggle to be the bastard in the dugout. Bobby Charlton couldn’t do it, Bobby Moore didn’t make it, countless others never got a look in. Nice guys just don’t survive.

Appointing somebody who spent all of his time with one club is also something of a mistake. The stalwart is well versed in the mechanics of his club, understands the DNA of the club, but in the role of manager, you need a person who has a rounded view of the game, drawn from spending time across the industry. Institutionalised people are loyal and reliable, but when you’re managing different players from all over the world, you need a manager with a global view of football.

It would seem very unlikely that a club like Liverpool, which is owned by American investors, would appoint a coach for old time’s sake. Sentiment just doesn’t come into it, and even if Gerrard has been earmarked for the future, he needs to serve an apprenticeship and bring to the job the experience of managing a top club with some degree of proficiency. Elite level clubs don’t do experiments.

His win rate at Aston Villa was just 32.5% but crucially, it is this season’s stats that count and they are looking dire. His record at Rangers was good and he won the Scottish Premiership with some degree of style, but putting it into perspective, the gap between Celtic and Rangers and the rest of Scottish football is huge and no real comparison with the Premier league can be made – just look at how Liverpool dismantled Rangers in the Champions League.

He didn’t rush into a job, preferring to sensibly transition via a coaching role at Liverpool. From Rangers, a Championship role would have been more suitable and would have formed part of his training. The Premier came too soon, just as it did for his contemporary, Frank Lampard. Yet getting sacked at this stage of his career isn’t the end of the world, but it does pose questions about his ability to become a top manager.

He does need to reflect more on the team rather than making it about himself. It is understandable that he should want to take the blame, but he often sounds like he is conducting an exercise in self-analysis: “I don’t doubt myself because I believe in myself…. I’m a fighter, I will never quit anything… It’s tough, but I’m a man”…. Mud has flown my way before”. It’s clear what Gerrard thinks about himself, but what about his employer and his players?

Gerrard will recover from this blow and he will doubtless be working again soon, but like so many others who have rushed into a top job, he needs to ask himself if moving to Aston Villa was right for someone with no Premier league managerial experience. And maybe Villa should ask themselves if they were a little too easily seduced by Steven Gerrard’s playing career stats.

The crisis baton passes to Leicester City and Brendan Rodgers

LEICESTER CITY’s latest defeat,  at Tottenham Hotspur by six goals to two, underlines the crisis that is unfolding at the club. It also highlights the plight of their manager, Brendan Rodgers, who will be only too aware that he has a big hole to quickly dig himself out of. In the Premier League, there is always a “crisis club” and this season, the baton has passed from Manchester United to Liverpool to Chelsea to Leicester City. The moment a club dips into the crisis zone, they are rarely left alone to work themselves out.

The media, the owners and the fans start to analyse the situation and the answer is invariably a demand for drastic action. It is difficult for any club chairman not to do anything and it usually ends in the manager getting the sack, either by “mutual consent” or “in the interests of the club”. The future of Brendan Rodgers is now the most talked-about topic in the city of Leicester, aside from the death of Queen Elizabeth.

Leicester’s situation is not good, the results speak for themselves, played seven, lost six, one point, 22 goals conceded. Admittedly, they have had three very difficult away trips and in their seven games, four have been against the “big six”. But from the corresponding fixtures last season, Leicester picked up 10 points, so a decline has clearly taken place – in 2022, Leicester’s win rate in the Premier is 25%, in 2021, it was 45%.

This is arguably the biggest crisis of Rodgers’ career, his statistics are actually very healthy, with an overall career win rate of 52%. It is doubtful that Leicester would get a better coach in terms of his track record. He led Leicester to the FA Cup in 2021, beating one of his former employers, Chelsea, in the final.

The current position is such that a section of Leicester’s support turned against Rodgers and are calling for his dismissal. These days, it doesn’t take much for the dial to drift into the red, even if you did win the only FA Cup in the club’s history. Rodgers, as he said in his post-match interview, knows the score.

Rodgers has spoken of a chaotic summer at the King Power, with the club investigated by UEFA concerning Financial Fair Play and understandably cautious around transfer market activity. Fortunately, they escaped any sanctions from the governing body.

Leicester did lose two key players in Kasper Schmeichel (to Nice) and Wesley Fofana (Chelsea), which yielded a considerable amount of cash. Although pressure must be growing, Rodgers said before the game with Spurs that he has good backing from his board. “They have been very supportive, but I am not daft. I understand football but their support probably shows the level of work we’ve done here and the work behind the scenes.”

Leicester have a reputation for being well run and people consider they have very committed and reasonable owners. In 2020-21, the most recent financials released, the club generated £ 226 million in revenues, a 51% increase on 2019-20, but 85% of income is spent on wages. The club has more than £ 230 million of net debt, with over £ 200 million owed to the owners. Leicester made a profit of £ 44 million on player trading, an important part of their business model. Leicester is a club that does sell its top players from time to time and they do have talent that other clubs would willingly acquire for large sums of money. James Maddison is one such player and there was considerable interest from Newcastle United, among others, in the summer window. If they need to raise money to strengthen in the new year, a big fee could be received for the England international.

Reports suggest that Rodgers appears to have been dissatisfied with the club’s recruitment system. Since the last window ended, Leicester have hired a new head of recruitment, Martyn Glover, but the full benefit of his arrival won’t truly be felt until 2023. He has also spoken out about the need for fans to encourage players as the anxiety generated from the stands can affect the team. His comments were not appreciated by some of Leicester’s supporters and “Rodgers out” banners started to appear among the crowd.

Such is the short-termism of football, and that doesn’t just include boards and owners but also supporters of most clubs, the temptation will be to replace Rodgers. The days when chairmen take a chance that things will turnaround seem to have gone. However, will Leicester City actually get someone better and is nobody given the benefit of the doubt anymore?