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Steven Gerrard reveals why he took Al-Ettifaq job

Al-Ettifaq boss Steven Gerrard says money was not the main motivator behind his move to Saudi Arabia.

Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard says he spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson for advice after being sacked by Aston Villa and before taking the Al-Ettifaq job in Saudi Arabia.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder headed to the Middle East last year having had spells in charge of Aston Villa and Rangers but failed to make a dramatic impact.

His arrival sparked mixed reactions from fans, who immediately assumed that the 43-year-old took the Saudi Pro League job for the money.

But for the first time in almost a year, Gerrard has spoken out on why he took the controversial career step.

Speaking exclusively to The Times, he said: “I was financially secure a long time ago.

“So, I would not come to Saudi for money. Was it part of it? Yes. Was it the only thing that made me do it? One million per cent, no.

“I didn’t want to jump into something that didn’t feel right and take an unnecessary risk when I am a young coach.

“I’ve had success up to a certain point. I actually felt my own performance at Villa was really good. I actually felt I went to the next level in terms of what I had learnt from Rangers. I felt like I had grown.

“But we had a bad run of results. I have to own that and take full responsibility for that.

“I have to learn from my mistakes. Maybe do things slightly differently and grow and evolve. That’s the only way you can move on from a setback or a knock.”

The interview reveals Gerrard’s sacking from Aston Villa hit him hard.

He was in charge at Villa Park for just short of a year and it represented the first real major setback of his managerial career.

As a player, the midfield maestro had always excelled and won the Champions League, but he was fishing in a different lake now and as a result, went to the legend that is Sir Alex for advice after taking the hit.

He added: “It knocked my confidence a little bit. It does. I spoke to a lot of managers around it.

“I went to see Alex Ferguson for a couple of hours and he said ‘take your time, don’t jump into anything. Take your time and process it, analyse it’.

“And that is what I have done. But it has not affected my ambition.”

It was a bumpy start to life at Al-Ettifaq. Gerrard went on a winless run of nine matches during the 2023-24 campaign but he did manage to get things moving eventually.

The Saudi side finished sixth in the standings, winning 12 games, drawing 12 and losing 10.

Drawing so many matches will be encouraging for Gerrard and it represents an opportunity next season to pick up more points with a few adjustments.

That is his aim and he was adamant that he would not be in the job if he was not taking it seriously.

“Trust me, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t taking it seriously. I take football seriously. Always have.

“And at the same time, I will never disrespect a person or an organisation by making a decision when I am not ready.”

Picture of Mitch Fretton

Mitch Fretton

Mitch is a freelance sports journalist with experience working for LiveScore, GOAL and Colchester United. He has experience working from both his desk at home and in the press box at games covering the Champions League and international football.