Dean Smith faced the press today as the media crews gathered to hear the new Villa boss discuss his appointment.
The former Brentford manager was joined by CEO – Christian Purslow to be formally unveiled and to answer questions on the jobs they have to do as well as how they will bring about changes to the club going forwards.
I watched the press conference twice, once as a pure Villa fan and to just enjoy what they had to say and then a second time to critically pull apart the key comments.
Smith immediately made a point of saying the job was purely a professional footballing choice over the obvious links to Villa, his boyhood club. The sceptics will point out that he has to say that but further comments about his professional progression as a coach made this an important starting point.
“Irrational over an emotional choice,” was used a few times. However he wanted to put it across he came across as a man bursting with pride.
It only took three questions for the reporters to drop a question in about the appointment of former captain John Terry and his suitability for a high profile coaching role.
Smith immediately pointed out the importance of Terry knowing the club from his time spent there last season as well as knowing the players both collectively and on a one to one level. He also explained how his previous work with Richard O’Kelly and Thomas Frank made him appreciate the need for three coaches on the team.
At Walsall, financial constraints meant there could only be himself and O’Kelly but the team of three at Brentford had changed his outlook.
Later on in the interview, Smith’s key phrase was, “I have an open door policy.”
This related to the fact that he expects both O’Kelly and Terry to be involved in everything from coaching, planning, and selection of players. This was quite an honest comment which you don’t hear very often from a lot of coaches.
The strength of the squad was also discussed and the obvious quality that is there; evident by the amount of players away on international duty.
There was also time for a nod towards Steve Bruce before the attention switched to Purslow. Smith pointed out that for him to be in charge meant that someone had to lose their job in the first place and pointed out that Bruce was just one game from promotion last season. A sign of respect rather than making the entire occasion all about himself.
The occasion was also the first appearance of Christian Purslow, seen as a high profile appointment in regards to a role that has needed both filling and essential to bringing Villa into the modern game.
Asked about the appointment of Smith, Villa’s new CEO explained that his obvious experience in English football and more specifically the Championship was important but the key attribute on his CV was his commitment to an attractive and positive playing style.
He also stated how Smith has an energy and motivation to manage at the highest level.
The finances of the club have been a constant question since the fallout of the fateful day at Wembley to end last season.
It was made pretty clear that money will be available and that Smith will be given time to assess his team alongside new Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch before drawing up plans for potential incomings and outgoings.
It was also notable that he mentioned the fact that Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens as majority shareholders have written off the debts and that there is a strong financial base to take the club forwards. No mentions of minority shareholder Dr Tony Xia (remember him) possibly hinted further at him being ‘soon to be off.’
Going back to Pitarch, Purslow explained that the owners had expressed their wish for a fresh, new model which involved a Sporting Director. It was then explained that the role would support Dean Smith in managing preparation, conditioning, nutrition and the transfers of players and their contracts to allow the manager to focus more on the matters on the pitch and maximise his efficiency.
Pitarch boasts twelve years in La Liga doing a similar job at both Atletico Madrid and Valencia respectively.
All in all, a steady, well structured press conference with honest, well thought out replies.
But perhaps the most standout comment of all was shared by both Smith and Purslow. “We have to win the right to go up, we are a Championship club.”
On the face of it, some may say it’s a negative statement. However it’s refreshing. Refreshing to see we are not spinning the rhetoric and waxing lyrical about being a ‘Premier League team in the wrong division’.
Both of them went on to say the players have to win the right to gain promotion and the staff now need to do their jobs.
It helped to alleviate any excuses from the players who are clearly expected to do a job.
Alongside this, the repeated push of wanting the players to “Express themselves and show what they can do,” was music to the ears of us all.
It is clear that results will be expected but the style and consistency will be pushed in equal measures to see an all round improved and exciting brand of football.
Smith was quick to point out that this season appears to be the most level it has been for some time with no side really looking like running away with the league.
After a thank you to Brentford for being so supportive and professional the message was clear from the boss.
We have the staff, we have the facilities and the funds but the players have to go out and perform. Only the players can do that.
It’s safe to say the man bleeds Aston Villa and like all of us wants success. Swansea on Saturday is an opportunity for the fans to show their support with a record attendance for this season looking assured. It is also a chance to say goodbye and thank you to Sir Doug Ellis. Which all feels like the marking of an end of an era and the start of a new one.
Dean Smith’s claret and blue army.