Steven Gerrard said he felt excitement, relief and pride as he started his Aston Villa reign with a 1-0 victory over Brighton on Saturday.
After a tight first 84 minutes, Villa broke the deadlock through Ollie Watkins’ excellent finish, having cut in from the left, before centre-back Tyrone Mings smashed home a second from an angle (88).
It ended Villa’s run of five straight defeats and gave them a vital three points going into a tricky run of fixtures. Gerrard was visibly and audibly buzzing after the game, admitting wins like these are like “medicine” for what he misses from his playing days.
“It’s a mixture of excitement, relief, pride really. Because I can’t be any more proud of the players. Some were only around for a couple days in the week, everything we asked them to do in the main they followed the structure and delivered a really good performance in the end.
“These are the buzzes, the highs you miss as a player. That is the reason I wanted to stay in the game. It is my medicine if you like. I love winning, I love competing, I love seeing players happy, smiling, feeling good about themselves. We were a bit tense at times today, it wasn’t all perfect, it was understandable that the players and crowd were a bit nervous.
“I think you’re trying to control your emotions. You’re kicking every ball. I want to be there on the side for my players. I want to coach from the side. I want them to see me. I want to be visible. I want to help them, guide them, so they carry a game plan out. Inside me is what was inside me as a player. That will to win. That drive and the energy.
“You should see me in staff games, five or six-a-side, I want to win, I tell you. I hate losing.”
Gerrard was full of praise for substitute Ashley Young, whose fine work set up Villa’s opener for Watkins, describing the 36-year-old substitute as like an “outer layer” of the coaching staff.
“I know him extremely well and I must say he’s been absolutely outstanding when I walked through the door. His leadership, his standard-setting. We see players like him as an outer layer of the staff, we need to lean on him. He was ready today and can play in many positions.”
Gerrard resisted the temptation to play on the front foot and go toe-to-toe with Brighton at Villa Park, spending large amounts of the game out of possession.
But Villa’s players stuck to their gameplan, according to Gerrard, who added that the players deserve the adulation after a tough period.
“We had to ride our luck some times in the first half. We wanted to pack the midfield, and when our moment comes, we wanted to go and hit the opposition.
“We’re at home, 42,000 with us, we want to be high energy and high tempo, but we can’t be careless and jump out of slots, because good teams will hurt us.
“I’ve seen a lot of application and focus. It was a real big week, but the players applied themselves fantastically well and no one deserves this more than the players because they’ve had a tough time.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do to move out of the area we are. We need to keep focusing on the next match, until we get in a position where we can assess it come January.”
Villa now go to Crystal Palace at 3pm on Saturday in the Premier League
Gerrard’s touchline passion evident
Gerrard’s emotions were clear on the touchline during the celebrations for both goals and after the game.
“I’ll always be as authentic as I can,” he said. “If anyone doubted what it means to be being in that position, just watch me after them goals. That’s real, the feeling, that’s how it is.”