Robbie Fowler believes Steven Gerrard has ‘the character and personality’ to be successful at Aston Villa, but warned his former teammate he would have ‘to deliver’ in his first managerial job in the Premier League.
Gerrard was appointed in charge of Villa earlier this week, signing a three-and-a-half year deal to replace Dean Smith, who was sacked four days earlier with the club just two points clear of the relegation zone.
The former Liverpool and England captain led Rangers to a first Scottish Premiership title since 2011 last season and left Ibrox with his side four points clear of Celtic at the top of the table and in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Steven Gerrard was appointed Aston Villa manager to replace Dean Smith this week
Robbie Fowler (right) believes his former Liverpool teammate will be a success at Villa Park
Fowler, who played alongside Gerrard for a four seasons at Anfield, believes the qualities his former teammate showed during his three seasons in Scotland bode well for his chances of impressing south of the border.
‘He has the character, he has the personality, and he also has the right team around him,’ the former Reds striker wrote in his column on The Mirror.
‘That is vital. He’s taken a lot of his staff from Rangers, and trusts them. I know most of them, and I know they have quality.
‘That will be key. Being a truly great player doesn’t make you a great manager. It maybe gives you a head start with players, maybe gives you a tiny bit more time. But you have to deliver in the end.’
Gerrard and Fowler won four trophies during their four seasons together at Anfield
Under Smith, Villa appeared to be on a steady upward trajectory, clinching promotion back to the top-flight in 2019, before finishing 17th and 11th in the Premier League over the last two seasons.
Losing Jack Grealish to Manchester City in the summer deprived Smith of his most creative player, but Villa looked to have absorbed their captain’s departure and invested his £100 million fee on transfers.
Impressive back-to-back wins against Everton and Manchester United were followed by five consecutive defeats, which ultimately cost Smith his job.
After being under pressure to win trophies at Rangers, Fowler suggested Gerrard will have to recalibrate his expectations at Villa Park.
Smith was sacked with Villa two points clear of the drop after losing five consecutive games
‘Will he be a success at Villa? I don’t doubt it. But then you have to ask the question, what is success at Villa? Dean Smith was successful, and he was sacked,’ he continued.
‘They don’t have the funds to match the top six, they have lost their best player because rightly, he wanted to move on in his career. So what is success? Maybe Europe. Maybe a cup win.
‘It’s a strange one isn’t it. We all expect Steven to go there and do something dramatic, and I can understand that he absolutely had to the take the job, after doing so well with Rangers.’
With Villa unlikely to challenge the Premier League’s status quo, Fowler indicated Gerrard’s best route to establish himself as a top Premier League manager may be to follow the path of his former Anfield boss, Brendan Rodgers.
‘But can he win the Premier League with Villa? You have to say unlikely,’ he added.
‘Can he qualify for the Champions League? Again, unlikely. So perhaps success is doing what Brendan Rodgers has done at Leicester the last few seasons. Challenge for Europe, challenge in the cups. Be around the top.’
Fowler recalled an episode in which a young Gerrard went flying into Paul Ince in training, before telling his more established colleague to ‘stand up and stop whining’.
The new Villa manager, his former teammate added, will have to show the same kind of enthusiasm to be successful in his new job.
The former Liverpool captain led Rangers to their first title in 10 years last season
‘I’ve said time and again, you’re only as good as the team around you. On the pitch, and off it,’ he wrote.
‘He will need to lean on his backroom staff, use their experience and knowledge, take from some of the great managers he’s played under too.
‘And he will need to draw on that same desire and commitment he had as a kid, and on the professionalism and quality he showed from the very start.
‘He has all that, and I don’t doubt we’ll see it come through.’