Aston Villa have appointed the former Blackpool manager Neil Critchley as Steven Gerrard’s new assistant.
Critchley – who led Blackpool to promotion to the Championship in 2021 after a playoff win over Lincoln – will once again link up with Gerrard whom he knows from his days at Liverpool. The 43-year-old replaces Michael Beale, who became the new Queens Park Rangers manager this week.
The move will be seen as a coup for Gerrard who has enticed one of the most highly thought of coaches in the game to join his staff. Having moved from Liverpool’s academy to take control of Blackpool in March 2020, that season was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, in his first season in charge, Critchley led his side to a third-placed League One finish before they sealed promotion via the playoff final at Wembley. Blackpool finished 16th in the Championship last season.
The Blackpool owner, Simon Sadler, said he was “disappointed” by Critchley’s exit. “Neil has been a consummate professional ever since arriving at Blackpool and really bought into what this club and town are all about,” Sadler told the club’s website. “He has built up strong relationships with the staff, players and supporters and made some special memories for us all.
“Naturally, we are disappointed to lose him, but thank him for all that he has achieved during his time at Bloomfield Road and wish him well in the Premier League with Aston Villa. Our primary focus now turns to succession planning and making the best possible appointment to continue taking this great club of ours forward.”
Previously, Critchley was Liverpool’s under-18s manager before progressing to take charge of the under-23s and he also stepped into Jürgen Klopp’s shoes in the 2019/20 season, taking charge of a 5-0 EFL Cup quarter-final defeat at Villa, when Klopp and the senior players were at the Club World Cup.
He also tasted victory in an FA Cup fourth-round replay victory against Shrewsbury, which clashed with the Premier League’s winter break. In the FA Cup win, Liverpool fielded their youngest starting lineup, with an average age of 19 years and 102 days.