Gerrard gives backing to Aston Villa players he has to throw in at ‘deep end’

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard 2021

Steven Gerrard will take responsibility for the performances of any Aston Villa players he has to throw in “at the deep end” for their Boxing Day fixture against Chelsea.

A rising number of coronavirus cases at the club caused the postponement of Villa’s Premier League match against Burnley last Saturday.

Games can only be called off on the grounds of Covid if clubs have less than 14 players, including a goalkeeper, available. To make up the numbers and get the Chelsea game on, Gerrard is expecting to include youngsters in his squad.

Expectations will therefore be different to normal. But he has every faith in those he will be calling upon.

Gerrard said: “They’ve certainly got my trust and my confidence.

“If I ask any player who has little experience to play, their performance is on me because I’ve put them in at the deep end.

“I’m in a situation where, depending on how it goes in the next two to three days, that we might have to call upon players who are on the fringe, or players from the academy.”

Back in August, before Gerrard was at the club, Villa fielded youngsters Cameron Archer, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Caleb Chukwuemeka and Hayden Lindley in a Carabao Cup win over Barrow.

The new boss agrees with West Ham manager David Moyes that clubs who have put their faith in youth may now be punished inadvertently.

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“Now that is not right,” said Gerrard. “But because we played a lot of players in a League Cup game against Barrow, the Premier League class them now as having first-team experience.

“You’re trying to be club that gives kids an opportunity. But during this Covid situation this could backfire and I also heard David Moyes say something similar.

“He gave people an opportunity in a European game to offload some of his first-team players. That could come back to bite him.

“That’s the way it is. But what I can say is I’ve got every confidence, belief and trust that these kids do need an opportunity. And if I have to call on them I will do.”

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The Villa boss still has no idea how may players he will have available. The situation is changing constantly.

“It’s changing every hour,” Gerrard said. “It’s changing on a daily basis, it’s very unpredictable. We’re testing every day.

“I expect the game to go ahead. I hope the game goes ahead. It’s a game we’re very much looking forward to.”

Should the game go ahead, it will give Villa a chance for a fifth win in seven league games since Gerrard took charge. But to get it, they will have to overcome the European champions.

Chelsea have been dealing with Covid issues of their own. Their form has stuttered in recent weeks, so they will be hoping to get back on track.

Gerrard does not know what to expect from Chelsea but is preparing for every possible scenario.

“We’ll always prepare for the best team in terms of the opponent. And if for any reason it’s not a strong Chelsea team then we’ll deal with that.

“But what I would say is, they’ve got a world-class squad littered with world-class players. So I’m sure if they’ve got enough to carry the fixture out, we’re going to find the Chelsea team is really strong.”

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