There will be as many eyes on Villa Park from Liverpool as there will be from the home fans when Steven Gerrard leads out Aston Villa at the weekend.
The Reds legend takes charge of a Premier League match for the very first time in his fledgling career in the dugout after being appointed Villa manager, and therefore interest in his progress from the club where he made his name is inevitable.
It has been suggested, perhaps in jest, perhaps seriously, that Liverpool fans will now see Villa as something of a ‘second team’ such is their curiosity in how Gerrard performs in the role.
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This keen interest in him is not solely down to the fact he served the club for almost the entirety of his playing career, hovering towards the top of the charts for both goals and appearances, and even captaining them to Champions League glory in 2005.
It seems like an unspoken, and of course unconfirmed, secret that one day, Gerrard will return to Anfield to manage his beloved club in fairytale style.
For many, the stars are already aligning. Jurgen Klopp’s existing contract at the club currently runs to 2024 and the German has previously cast doubt on extending his stay beyond the nine years he will have completed on Merseyside when his deal expires.
Gerrard, for what it’s worth, has signed on at Villa for two and a half years – taking him until, you guessed it, 2024.
Unfortunately, this narrative doesn’t look like a ‘happy ever after’ scenario for everyone, with the team Gerrard is managing - Aston Villa - being cast as something of a supporting character or even just an extra.
The news of his appointment hasn’t exactly been greeted with universal acclaim by the Villa supporters, who rightly take issue with their team being spoken about like some sort of holding pattern before Air Force Gerrard is cleared to land at Anfield.
Of course, the man himself hasn’t addressed these rumours but for their part, Villa fans are right to be frustrated by such suggestions from rival supporters, pundits and the media alike, given their own lofty aspirations.

Steven Gerrard is unveiled as the new head coach of Aston Villa at Bodymoor Heath training ground on November 11, 2021 in Birmingham, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

Following their relegation in 2016, the club looked doomed both on and off the pitch before eventually being taken over two years later by businessmen Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.
The following season, they won promotion back to the top flight with the aim to re-establish Villa as the Premier League force that was regularly in the mix for European qualification in years gone by.
Villa’s ambitious owners have spent in excess of £300 million since 2019, including £90 million last summer, part of which was a club record £33 million on Emi Buendia from Norwich.
The club also managed to recoup a record £100 million for star man Jack Grealish, highlighting the fact they are very much doing business with the big boys now.
Their struggles this season could not be ignored however, and a five-game losing streak has seen the club hurtle toward the relegation zone, signalling the end of Dean Smith’s reign and appointment of Gerrard.
His hasty departure from Rangers, who he successfully led to an impressive Scottish Premiership title, has left a bad taste in Glasgow and Villa fans will naturally be wary of his abandonment issues with all the noise about Liverpool refusing to quieten down.
Those supporters were always fully behind Smith, who they considered ‘one of their own’, so they will perhaps understand the lure back 'home' for their new boss, although certainly don’t want to be caught in between.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: A mural of former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard is seen on the side of a house ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on October 3, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

The two teams meet on December 11 at Anfield and Villa fans will already be dreading the talk of the 'homecoming'. Let them not dare hear any mention of 'divided loyalties'!
Ultimately, will they back Gerrard? For sure. With the same affection they had for Smith? Doubtful, and if the consequence of this is him not performing well enough with Villa, the Liverpool job may not even be an option in the long run.
The former England midfielder walks into a healthy club with talented players and the backing of his board. As such, one hopes, contrary to the discussion around him, that his undivided attention will be on taking Villa up the table rather than treating them as a finishing school or audition for Liverpool.
If he is simply using them as some sort of stepping stone, then that may end up being a huge mistake for all involved.
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