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Brad Friedel On Gerrard's Villa Appointment
You know Steven Gerrard very well. What can you tell me about him after he has been appointed the new Aston Villa manager?
We were together at Liverpool when he was young and he was training with the first team all of the time. Obviously, I also played against him many times. (When I was training with him) everybody could see that Gerrard had remarkable talent and that he would go far in the game, even when he was seventeen.
There were some exceptional young players that were at the club at the time – Carragher, Owen, Gerrard – you could tell that they had exceptional talent.
Were you impressed with his leadership qualities as a youngster?
Yeah. He showed strong leadership qualities then, although he was quiet. He was very respectful of other players in training; players that had played longer.
He had no problem being a leader and, when thrown into a leadership role, he had no issue asking questions of senior players – he was very good at that and had no issue with that. You could tell at a young age that he had leadership qualities, that’s for sure.
Were you surprised to see Dean Smith sacked by Aston Villa?
Yes, I was. I think he had done a great job. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes (at the club) and what his remit was for the season ahead.
They lost five games on the bounce, but I don’t know any of the internal conversations, but when I heard the news, yes I was surprised about it because of where the club had come from (in the Championship) and the season they had last year.
Do you think the Villa fans will get behind Gerrard?
Without a doubt. The results will speak for themselves and there may be one or two that will question his age and lack of managerial experience within the Premier League, but any new manager is going to be questioned.
Villa supporters are very educated fans and, depending on their age, some of them would have seen some incredible times. As long as the club is seen as going forward and as long as the club is playing good football, the fans will back Stevie G to the hilt without any question.
I’m also sure that some of the fans will be a little disappointed that one of their own (Dean Smith) isn’t there anymore but once they see Stevie’s work ethic and what he’s trying to accomplish, they’ll get behind him. For Stevie, it is a wonderful club to be involved with.
I haven’t read if Gary McAllister will be joining him, but I know Gary as he was on Gerard Houllier’s coaching team during my last season at Villa and I know that Gary would have been singing the praises of the club to Stevie.
Aston Villa is a wonderful club. Great stadium, great training ground and a great fanbase. They do have great resources too, so what a wonderful opportunity for Steven as well.
What was Gary McAllister like as an assistant coach as it is highly likely that he will join Steven at Villa?
Gary was an unbelievable coach and great man. It’s funny, I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. I was in the UK with a friend and he called the friend I was with, so he passed me the phone and we spoke about Villa out of the blue. He asked me, “How did really you find it (at Aston Villa)?”.
I absolutely loved my time there. I loved every minute of it. It was a shame that for my final season, at 40 years of age, there was a lot of change and it was a shame that Gerard (Houllier) became ill during the season and Randy Learner (former Aston Villa owner) was actively looking to sell the club…it was circumstance more than anything which resulted in me leaving.
Gary Mac (Gary McAllister) is very calm. He likes people who work hard and take pride in their job. He is one of the best around. I don’t think there are too many people in football that I have ever come across that didn’t like him.
Do you think that Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister could be a magic combination for Villa?
I think it’s smart as a young Head Coach to add experience to your staff. It’s wise to have guys around you that bring a wealth of experience because there is no way at Stevie’s age that he would have seen everything as a manager. I think it is really wise to have someone like Gary who is a true out and out footballing man.
What should Steven’s first target be as Villa manager?
His first target should be to steady the ship. Villa has lost five games on the bounce, so he should go in and get the confidence of the players up and get the players behind him. Let the fans see an upturn in results, if possible, but he definitely will want to show the fans that the players have bought into him and are working hard for the team and what he is trying to do.
Antonio Conte’s (recently appointed Tottenham manager) comments were quite funny where he said, “I know for the next two weeks I’ll get the maximum out of every player, but after that the players will decide if they want to follow me.” Stevie will have to do that also. If the players don’t know him, once they get to know him they will like him immediately.
He is a very likeable character and so is Gary Mac (Gary McAllister). If any of the players are nervous about meeting the new boss, they don’t need to be! Stevie is very approachable and likeable.
Is the Aston Villa role the perfect audition for the Liverpool job?
I don’t think it’s right to think of Aston Villa as a stepping stone as such. Right now, where the two clubs sit, you may consider it a stepping stone, however, Villa has resources. Villa has an incredible stadium.
Villa has incredible supporters. If Stevie can solidify and bring in some really good signings and get the ownership to back him, you have a club the size of Villa that can rival the Premier League’s biggest teams once financially backed. Historically, Liverpool is the bigger club, but you can’t take anything away from Aston Villa.
Aston Villa are a huge club. Aston Villa could be one of the big clubs. I said to myself when they were relegated, “there is no way that Villa should have ever gone down, they have too much going for them”, but they did.
Would Stevie ever want to manage his beloved Liverpool? Of course he would, but you couldn’t say that Villa is a stepping stone because they are so much bigger than that.
How far do you think Stevie could go with Villa?
Well, there is a lot of competition in the Premier League. First and foremost, he has to get the players onboard and get them confident again. He needs to solidify the club’s position in the Premier League this season and get them mid-tableish.
Then go for it next season. Get the players out that he doesn’t fancy, bring in the players that he wants and then see far you can take them. If the owners can see progress, they have the resources to back him.
All you need to do is look at Leicester. Could he build something that is really competitive? Absolutely. The club is waiting for it. The club is positioned really nicely for it and I hope, on a personal level, that someone like Stevie can take them there.
It would be outstanding because he is an outstanding football guy and a really good person to take over the club. When I heard the news being an ex-Villa player and an ex-Liverpool player and knowing Stevie, I was delighted.
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