Villa fan Smith ticks all the right boxes

Birmingham Post - - SPORT - Foot­ball Editor

ONE of our own. It has a nice ring to it when it comes to the Villa Park faith­ful ser­e­nad­ing the man­ager.

But how se­ri­ous a con­tender is Brent­ford boss and boy­hood As­ton Villa fan Dean Smith to re­place Steve Bruce?

The fans are torn, the book­ies are torn and the pun­dits are torn, so good­ness knows how Nassef Sawiris, Wes Edens and Chris­tian Purslow are feel­ing as they pon­der this piv­otal ap­point­ment.

Since Bruce got the boot last week Smith has fea­tured among the lead­ing names in the odds and is known to have ad­mir­ers within the cor­ri­dors of Villa Park and Body­moor Heath. But is he be­ing given the con­sid­er­a­tion he de­serves?

As the Villa board in­ten­sify their hunt for Bruce’s re­place­ment, Smith is cer­tainly a man worth lis­ten­ing to and talk­ing to – and not just be­cause he is a boy­hood fan. Let’s deal with this the right way round, Smith’s man­age­rial ca­pa­bil­i­ties trump his claret and blue al­le­giances.

Of course, his ‘one of our own’ sta­tus would be an at­trac­tive fac­tor but, first and fore­most, Smith de­serves a crack at a big job like this be­cause he is prov­ing him­self to be a very shrewd foot­ball man­ager.

Smith is not a rookie. This is a boss who at Wal­sall and now Brent­ford has made his teams greater than the sum of their parts.

At Grif­fin Park he has done it at the same Cham­pi­onship level at which Villa are now op­er­at­ing, with a frac­tion of the re­sources.

A pri­mary crit­i­cism of Bruce dur­ing his near two-year ten­ure was that Villa lacked a co­he­sive style.

It is an ac­cu­sa­tion that can­not be lev­elled against Smith, who has got the Bees pro­duc­ing some of the best foot­ball in the Cham­pi­onship.

All the more im­pres­sive is that his achieve­ments have been set against a back­drop of con­stant rein­ven­tion.

The re­volv­ing door at Brent­ford has been sim­i­lar to that at Villa in re­cent sea­sons, al­beit for very dif­fer- ent rea­sons. While Villa man­agers have been able to cherry-pick the best play­ers from their Cham­pi­onship ri­vals, Smith has had to pere­nially con­tend with los­ing his stars, in­clud­ing Scott Ho­gan.

Still, it hasn’t stopped him from mak­ing the Bees com­pet­i­tive sea­son af­ter sea­son, re­plen­ish­ing the per­son­nel, with­out chang­ing the phi­los­o­phy.

Smith has proved he is a man with a plan, a man who can rise to the chal­lenge in front of him, while at the same time dar­ing to look be­yond the next minute, the next match, the next month.

Villa’s next man­ager needs the right lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions if he is to buck the trend of his re­cent pre­de­ces­sors and not only sur­vive, but thrive.

Pro­mo­tion is the re­mit – it has to be – but the new man also needs the breath­ing space to put into place some­thing more last­ing.

Smith, given his up­bring­ing, would surely stand a much bet­ter chance than most of be­ing af­forded pa­tience from the fan­base.

All of which brings us to the Villa fan thing. The big­gest con­cern over Smith is the scale of the club, com­pared to his pre­vi­ous places of em­ploy­ment. It’s true, Villa is a step up in size, bud­get, ex­pec­ta­tion, eve- ry­thing when and Wal­sall.

That’s where his claret and blue blood could help. What he lacks in terms of big-club ex­pe­ri­ence he makes up for with an in­ti­mate knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of this club. He would come into this job with his eyes wide open. The 47-year-old knows ex­actly what the Villa Park crowd are about.

Of course, sweep­ing the steps of the Holte End as a kid won’t make him im­mune from crit­i­cism if re­sults are not forth­com­ing.

But he will know bet­ter than most that what has be­come a man­age­rial grave­yard for many could be­come the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time for one.

The po­ten­tial is enor­mous. Of course he’d be tempted if Villa come knock­ing. It all comes down to chem­istry, find­ing a good fit, the right fit.

A big-name rookie could ex­cel, a tried-and-trusted veteran could flop or vice-versa. Af­ter all, one club’s Nuno is an­other club’s no-no.

Villa want some­thing ex­cit­ing, some­thing fresh as an an­ti­dote to the pre­vi­ous man­ager’s joy­less demise.

Smith is a Brum­mie pur­veyor of fine foot­ball with a claret and blue heart. He gets Villa. Whether Villa get him, we’ll have to wait and see... it comes to Brent­ford

Smith has proved he is a man with a plan, a man who can rise to the chal­lenge in front of him

By MAT KEN­DRICK > Brent­ford boss Dean Smith is among the favourites to re­place Steve Bruce (in­set)

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