Villa fan Smith ticks all the right boxes
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)