It is fair to say that news of Jurgen Klopp’s new Liverpool contract will have gone down well at Aston Villa.
Certainly in the manager’s office, where Steven Gerrard’s respect and admiration for the German, and the job he is doing at Anfield, is absolute.
“I love him,” the Villa boss is on record as saying, adding that “we all hope he stays for a few more years.”
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Gerrard, along with every other Liverpool supporter, got what he wanted last month, when it was announced that Klopp would be extending his stay on Merseyside.
The plan initially had been for him to walk away at the end of the 2023-24 season, but the new deal will keep him, and his key coaching staff, with the Reds until at least 2026.
Great for Liverpool, and there will have been one or two smiles, not to mention sighs of relief, in the Villa Park boardroom as well. Because as far as their own plans go, Klopp’s extension is extremely helpful.
There is a common assumption that it will be Gerrard who succeeds Klopp in the Anfield hotseat, and that everything he does as a manager now is with a view to what he will be able to do in the future at Liverpool.
Klopp, too, believes it is inevitable. Even at his pre-match press conference ahead of the clubs’ Premier League clash on Tuesday, he referred to Gerrard as “my possible successor.”
He was smiling, of course, but he has stated previously that the 41-year-old will “definitely” be Reds boss somewhere down the line, and that it would “be good for everybody” when that happens.
Plenty could have happened before 2024, of course, and even more may happen before 2026. Gerrard knows he has plenty to prove if he wants to take that dream job; that hasn’t changed, but at least he and Villa now know he has a little more time in which to prove it. A little pressure has been relieved, for both parties.
Having achieved success in Scotland with Rangers, whom he guided to a first league title in 10 years last season, Gerrard's first six months in Premier League management have been encouraging enough. Not perfect, by any means, but promising nonetheless.
He has certainly achieved his immediate target, which was to move Villa away from relegation danger. They were never likely to go down, in truth, but they had slipped to 17th under Dean Smith, and it was crucial that a bad autumn was not allowed to turn into a bad winter.
With four wins from his first six games, Gerrard ensured that would not be the case.
Villa sit 11th heading into Tuesday’s game with Liverpool, and will have their eye on a top-half finish for sure. They are four points behind ninth-placed Brighton with two games in hand, though it should also be pointed out that they are also only three points better off than Southampton in 15th at present.
Taking a more wide-lens view, Gerrard has displayed at least some of the characteristics that mark out the game’s best managers. He looks like he can get a team organised - there have been eight clean sheets in 21 Premier League matches - and certainly appears to be able to connect with both players and supporters.
His pulling power was evident in January too, when Villa were able to recruit the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne. More signings are expected to follow in the summer, with Kalvin Phillips and Yves Bissouma among those linked.
Villa is a club with plenty going for it. In terms of fanbase and resources, not to mention a thriving youth academy, there are not many better for a young manager to be at. The ingredients are there to lay some excellent foundations.
Gerrard knows that, and knows that progress is not only desired, but expected too.
“The priority in the short term is ‘can we finish in the top half of the league?’” he told The Overlap with Gary Neville recently. “[Then] it’s ‘can we have another positive [transfer] window, and then ‘can we push on and nudge it up again?’
“We’ve got real good potential, but how can we go and grab some of those higher positions off teams that have been there and done it?
“The likes of Leicester and West Ham have gone and upset the top six. Wolves have shown signs of doing that, Brighton as well. I’m hoping, with time and support, and everyone aligned…why can’t that be Villa?”
Whatever happens, it promises to be fascinating, and not just this week when Gerrard and his side will look to kill off Liverpool’s title hopes.
There are plenty with red connections at Villa, not just Gerrard but also the majority of his coaching staff too - the likes of Gary McAllister, Micheal Beale, Tom Culshaw, Jordan Milsom and Scott Mason.
Coutinho and Danny Ings are ex-Liverpool players, while chief executive Christian Purslow also spent time at the club. The Midlanders recently appointed Phil Roscoe, the Reds’ long-serving head of academy player care, as their new first-team player care and family liaison manager, too.
The expectation is that one day some, if not all, will be back at Anfield. Klopp’s new contract, however, means that day is a little further away.
And for Aston Villa, that can only be a good thing.