Steven Gerrard wasn’t seen as the most obvious of the Istanbul 2005 squad to become a manager. People talked about Jamie Carragher, with his obsession for football and encyclopedic knowledge of the sport, and Xabi Alonso, with his brilliant reading of the game and strong ideas of how it should be played, as the most likely contenders to go into management. But so far Xabi is keeping his options open, happy to bide his time and enjoy life away from the game and Jamie has stayed well clear, preferring to work as a pundit.
Instead, some of the quieter members of the squad have been the ones to step forward and give it a go. Sami Hyypia has managed in Germany, England and Switzerland. Perhaps the most surprising is Harry Kewell, who was rumoured as a player not to particularly like football, just seeing it as a job, but has not only gone into management, but been prepared to get his hands dirty down in League Two with Crawley Town, and has spoken about one day wanting to manage Liverpool.
And then there is Gerrard.
Stevie wasted no time when he retired from football to get back to Liverpool and straight into coaching. He was given a job, first shadowing all the staff at the academy and then given his own U18s team to manage. Those who have seen him operate first hand have spoken about a relentless work ethic maybe not expected for someone who has won as much as he has as a player. Often working on his own team all day before travelling to watch a younger team in the evening.
For the academy players he is a perfect role model. People forget that as a youngster, he wasn’t always destined to become a legend for club and country. Unlike Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen, who were slightly older than him, he was rejected by England’s Lilleshall youth academy and didn’t play for England until U16s level. He used setbacks like this to push himself harder, but even when he made it to the first team at Liverpool he wasn’t straight in the headlines like an Owen or a Fowler.
In his first season as an 18/19-year-old he made only 13 appearances in all competitions, mainly from the bench, and he didn’t score for Liverpool until the season after. The coaches at the club all had high hopes for him, but not many of the fans were talking about a future UEFA Club Footballer of the Year at that stage.
But Gerrard got the most of out his talents and used his drive and will to win to become one of the best footballers in the world. It is that work ethic mixed with quality that is required that he has tried to install into all the players he has worked with, and you sense he has enjoyed it. Particularly mentoring the likes of Curtis Jones, a young prolific Scouse midfielder who has a bit of Gerrard about him in the way he carries and strikes the ball. Not to mention how he struts about the pitch.
However, you have sensed some frustrations with the system too.
As Liverpool have loaned more young players out since Christmas, some of his players have had to step up to the U23 level to make up the numbers. Because of this, and a transfer ban at the club at academy level, Gerrard has frequently had to field 15 and 16 year olds in his team. Results have suffered as a result, although the U18s are still third in the North table behind both Manchester clubs.
For someone like Gerrard, a winner who was always meticulous in how he prepared himself, it must be difficult not to have more control over the quality of the players he has at his disposal week by week. On top of this the pathway to his ultimate goal, the first team manager’s job at Liverpool, doesn’t seem an obvious one from where he is. He could take the U23 manager job, but will have many of the same problems with not knowing what he has to work with as he has currently, and Jurgen’s Klopp’s backroom staff seems very settled. Any job there would feel like a token one, which obviously wouldn’t suit him either. And Jurgen doesn’t look to be going anywhere any time soon.
So a number one role for Gerrard at another club might have become more appealing quicker than he expected.
He has been offered, and turned down, several first team jobs already, mainly in the lower leagues, but this Glasgow Rangers one is an intriguing possibility. It’s a big club and a huge fan base, but slightly removed from the bubble of English media. Just far away to be different, but near enough to be similar. He’ll know the style of football, if not necessarily all the players, and there are no language issues, just a slight accent one.
There is an expectation to win, perhaps a slightly unrealistic one given recent years, but Gerrard will relish that. There is European football to experience too. Gerrard has come alive managing the U19s team to a UEFA Youth League Quarter Final this season, so will relish that too.
They are a club who have churned through the managers recently, which will concern him, given that he will probably need time to adapt and learn. But there is a chance to become a hero too and an ability to prove himself that he might find difficult to resist. I think he’ll go, you know. But if not, he’s likely to be off somewhere soon. When Gerrard sets his mind on something, he’s relentless in pursuing it.