Steven Gerrard believes that he has set a precedent that “no-one is bigger” than Aston Villa following the departure of Carney Chukwuemeka.
The 18-year-old midfielder has emerged as one of England’s finest young talents. While he has made initial progress at club level, he has already made waves on the international scene.
Indeed, Chukwuemeka starred in England’s Euro Under-19s tournament triumph earlier this year. And with one year left on his contract, he felt he needed regular game time.
Chukwuemeka felt Villa was not the right pathway for him. He has instead moved to Chelsea, with the Blues hoping he can form part of their future midfield spine.
Speaking in a press conference on Friday, Gerrard wished the “big talent” well but insisted that there is a clear pathway to first-team football at Villa. He added, though, that the most important thing is for Villa to retain their reputation.
“We’ve got a lot of talented players and we’re committed to trying to get as many through, committed to give pathways them to get first-team football,” Gerrard said.
“The door was open for a pathway for Carney, for sure, there was a lot of hard work and attention to try and get him signed up here, but I’m really happy I got the support from the owners, Christian and Johan, and we also needed to set a precedent that no-one is as big as the club or the Academy.
“And if someone isn’t committed or prepared to commit to the club, the supporters and the journey then we have to give them the opportunity to go somewhere else.”
Chukwuemeka has signed a six-year deal at Chelsea and his development at Stamford Bridge will be an interesting watch.
Gerrard talks McGinn captaincy decision
But Villa have already moved on and are looking ahead to the new season in earnest. Gerrard feels “confident” that his side can improve on last term’s 14th-placed Premier League finish.
He added that his side have “bonded and become a lot closer” following the pre-season trip to Australia. Another of the key hopes for Gerrard is that Scotland midfielder McGinn will flourish as the new captain.
Gerrard said centre-back Tyrone Mings took the decision to remove him as the team’s leader well. However, the manager warned McGinn that he will not automatically start just because he is captain.
“I analysed the group really closely on and off the pitch and I’m really happy and content with my decision,” Gerrard said.
“I think John McGinn is universally respected, he’s been around the club for a long time, the fans adore him, everyone around Bodymoor Heath and Villa Park has major respect for John, his peers have, he plays with consistency, he’s my type of player and they’re a few reasons I decided to go with John.
“It doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to be a starter in this team, I’ve made that really clear to John, I need that consistency to stay and I need him to really push this team.
“But I’ve really been impressed with Tyrone’s reaction, he’s trained well since, had a bit of a niggle that he’s hopefully got over and he’ll be available for the weekend.”
Villa play newly-promoted Bournemouth at home in their first Premier League game of the season.