In a sport as high octane as football, players and managers are the most vulnerable right after a match has been completed.
They may be angry at players, at referees, at the facilities or anything and everything they can put the blame on.
Or they may be happy and content with the result, with certain plays, with certain calls given during the game.
This is why post-match interviews attract so much attention. Unlike pre-match press sessions, where everything is calm, collected and controlled, post-match interactions produce headline-worthy content.
Catch a manager off-guard or in a bad mood and the journalist taking the interview will be thrust into the limelight when he gets a click-worthy reply. This is why reporters also try to bait managers with controversial and trying questions.
It is the interviewer’s job to ask the right question. Play it too safe and you’ve lost viewership, play it too risky and you’ve lost the interviewee.
A balancing act as fine as this requires finesse and experience and only the most trusted are sent to carry out these interactions.
Ashley Preece is one such trusted personnel. Writing and reporting about Aston Villa for more than 3 years, Ashley recently found out how thin that line really is with Steven Gerrard when interviewing him after the game against Leeds on Sunday.
A ten-men Leeds team held Villa to a scoreless draw at Elland Road in a game which really should not have ended with the scoreline. Villa had 19 shots to Leeds’ 5 and an xG of 2.23 compared to only 0.37 for the home team.
Bailey, Buendia, Watkins, Ings and Coutinho, the players that played in the forward line for the Villans, failed to convert any of the chances, much to the dismay of the travellers.
Ollie Watkins missed three big chances, while the other striker, Danny Ings, brought on in the 83rd minute, managed only one pass.
With the strikers misfiring, we can understand the discontent among the fans when manager Gerrard yet again did not sub in young hotshot Cameron Archer.
The 20-year-old enjoyed a somewhat fruitful loan spell at Preston North End last season, scoring 7 times in 20 outings.
To further his development, the player was supposed to move to Watford on load this season, but the move fell through.
The failed move led to Gerrard including him in his senior squad for the season.
Minutes have not come Archer’s way though, with only 10 minutes of PL action and 8 minutes of Carabao Cup thus far.
And these minutes were before a recent injury to the player, which makes his case all the more inexplicable.
With current strikers failing to convert, Sunday felt like a good opportunity to see what the youngster can do.
Having not taken that opportunity, Ashley Preece used the post-match conference to get an explanation for Archer’s lack of playtime.
The response was surprising, to say the least.
“He’s only done one full session. Is he chomping at the bit? 100 per cent,” Gerrard said.
“You’re a fan of Cameron, you, aren’t ya? Or are you a mate of the family? Something’s going on because you’ve asked me 25 questions this year and I reckon 19 have been on Cam Archer. You’re a fan aren’t ya?”
While his first statement, referring to the injury and subsequent training, pretty much gave an explanation for him not coming on the pitch, the following comments were strange.
It was heat-of-the-moment stuff from the manager, and maybe even banter, as Gerrard has used the same “know the family” line of thought last year when reporters were bugging him about John McGinn.
In fact, Preece has himself clarified that the relationship between them is “amicable” and that this response was just frustration following the poor result.
It may be manageable now, but the pressure on Gerrard is only going to grow if his strikers continue with their poor performance.
Be in Archer, or anyone else, he needs to find a way to make his Aston Villa side fire again.