Gerrard, Howe and Smith start new jobs with tougher trials ahead than I'm A Celebrity stars in relegation dog fight

Gerrard, Howe and Smith start new jobs with tougher trials ahead than I'm A Celebrity stars in relegation dog fight


THEY won’t be grilled by Ant and Dec or have to stay in a Welsh castle.

But other than that, it would be no surprise if Steven Gerrard, Eddie Howe and Dean Smith wondered if the I’m A Celebrity contestants starting their (lucrative) national humiliation this weekend have got the better end of the stick.

In normal circumstances, tucking into a kangaroo anus or devouring a fistful of grubs would be most people’s idea of Hell.

Spending two weeks cooped up with David Ginola, Richard Madeley and Arlene Phillips might make you think again, too.

But most people have not had to cope with the pressure of managing a troubled, relegation-fighting club in the Premier League.

And that really is no fun at all.

Howe returns to football after 15 months knowing expectations could not be higher at the world’s wealthiest club.

Those Saudi oil billions mean the 43-year-old will be judged by very different standards to the one he worked with at Bournemouth, where surviving in the Prem for four seasons was the definition of unlikely success.


But Howe has taken over the only winless side in the top flight, a squad of players who all expect they will be discarded by the end of next summer and with pressure to turn things around quickly.

Toon fans are already clocking up their own list of 'stars' set to arrive on the Quayside, ramping up the heat and failure to get off to a winning start against Brentford will leave Howe facing some big questions from day one.

It is not quite the same, if for different reasons, for Gerrard and Smith.

Yes, former England skipper Gerrard has copped some flak from north of the border for walking out on Rangers to embrace the hopes of the Holte End.

But Gerrard, despite his claims to the contrary,  also recognised that he needs to show his Prem credentials before he can take the job he craves, whenever Jurgen Klopp decides to leave Liverpool.

Villa sacked Smith, of course, after he failed to resolve the question of life after Jack Grealish. 

Gerrard simply has to work with the tools at his disposal, find the answers to questions without worrying about the lost solution.

After all, take away Grealish but add in Danny Ings, Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey, and there doesn’t seem too much weakening of a side that finished 11th last term.

Gerrard, too, comes in as a proven managerial winner, who will have the instant respect of his players. 

But there will be a pressure he puts on himself, as a man who always seemed to internalise expectations and who is not used to life in the basement regions.

Smith, by contrast, appears to have been appointed as the man to bring Norwich back to the Prem, even if he can’t keep them up.

Sacking Daniel Farke after the Canaries finally got off the mark seemed cruel and Smith was still employed at Villa Park.

But his dismissal and availability made him the ideal candidate to replace the German.

Smith would be justified in feeling let down by Villa, frustrated at the turn of events and short memories, determined to prove a point.

Keeping his new side up, at the expense of his old one, would be the perfect answer. 

And that really would be better than being trapped underground with ants being poured all over him…

Illustration by Lovatto

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