Monday, November 29, 2021

Merson backing Lampard and Gerrard as leading Aston Villa candidates

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 Nov 2021

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Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard should be in strong contention to replace Dean Smith at Aston Villa, according to former midfielder Paul Merson.

After suffering a fifth straight defeat by going down 1-0 to Southampton on Friday, Smith became the fifth Premier League manager to lose his job this season.

The former Brentford boss spent three years at Villa Park, guiding his boyhood club back into the Premier League at the first attempt before establishing their top-flight status with a creditable 11th-place finish last term.

However, the 50-year-old ultimately paid the price after the Southampton defeat left Villa just two points and two places above the relegation zone.

Merson, who spent four years at the club between 1998 and 2002, sympathised with Smith and believes his impressive work warranted the opportunity to turn their fortunes around.

But the former Arsenal man has urged his old club to consider replacing Smith with either Lampard and Gerrard.

While Merson acknowledges it would be difficult to persuade Gerrard, who guided Rangers to the Scottish Premiership title last season, he feels the lure of the Premier League would be tough to turn down.

Merson told Sky Sports: “I would like to see a Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard get the job.

“It’s going to be hard to prise Steven away, he’s managing a massive club in Rangers.

“He’s got them buzzing again; he stopped Celtic winning 10 in a row, they are in the Europa League, and they’ve got a chance of winning the Scottish Premiership.

“Everyone wants to manage in the Premier League; that is no disrespect to the Scottish Premiership. Rangers and Celtic are bigger clubs than probably half of the teams in the Premier League.

“But it’s the Premier League, and when you start out managing, I’m sure in the back of people’s minds if you could get a job like Aston Villa – wow.”

Merson also highlighted the credentials of former Chelsea boss Lampard who, though restricted by financial sanctions imposed on the club, guided the Blues to the 2020 FA Cup final and Champions League qualification.

The 43-year-old, who previously steered Derby County to the Championship play-off final, also regularly gave youth the opportunity to shine at Stamford Bridge, the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James all stepping up to the plate. 

Merson feels that quality would certainly complement the scenario at Villa.

“I think you have to put Frank’s name in the hat as well,” he added. 

“He’s managed Chelsea, where he did a great job in steadying the ship at the time.

“If you look at all the kids who have come through at Chelsea since, and then look at Aston Villa’s academy, it’s very good as well.

“On Friday night, Dean Smith had five or six players from the academy in the squad for what was his final game.”

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