He wasn’t a face we ever knew, but his presumed character oozed class and admiration. Our gaffer would always speak fondly of his old man, in ways we can connect with having climbed the very steps of the Holte End Dean and his brother Dave would scale with Ron.
Ron was committed to the club he supported as a child, leading Villa’s former chairman Sir Doug Ellis to and from his seat in the Trinity Road Stand – he was a valuable servant. Passing down the club he cherished would later equip Villa with a head coach worthy of setting club-record winning runs, erecting derby-day delights and Championship promotion.
‘Next time I come and see you, I’ll be a Premier League manager’, Smith promised his father.
Through teary eyes, Smith remembered: “He smiled and nodded. Hopefully, there was an understanding but it’s a terrible illness. For me, that was enough.”
Poignantly, on the night of Ron’s passing, Villa fans far and wide were reminiscing about Dean’s successes from 12 months ago, having defeated Derby in the play-off final that drew possibly the greatest reception any Villa side or boss has received in decades.
Dean has reconnected a fractured fanbase, established a connection with those on the pitch and in the stands, his leadership qualities no doubt say as much about Ron as they do for Dean, Aston Villa’s head coach.
“Unfortunately, because of his dementia he doesn’t know that I’m Villa head coach,” Smith solemnly announced last season.
“That’s probably the tough part of it. I remember after a Walsall game, I had to go and put my dad to bed that night, which is a tough thing to do for anyone,” Smith told The Telegraph.
“I put my family side to one side and concentrate on Aston Villa.”
After juggling the weight of expectation for a big club sitting outside the play-off positions in the Championship, two or three times a week Dean would drive off from Bodymoor Heath to see his father, Ron.
One of our own
Thinking of the time when his father told him that he couldn’t go to the 1982 European Cup final because of fears of crowd trouble in Rotterdam – Dean and Ron, whilst being closer to the club than many of us will ever be, are indeed that, one of our own.
As well as being a regular at home games, Ron did make it to Rotterdam in ’82 to watch Dennis Mortimer fling the European Cup into the Rotterdam night sky in front of Bayern Munich’s Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
A then 11-year-old Dean still managed to get on the open-top bus with his heroes Peter Withe and Gary Shaw as the Birmingham bus parade toured Europe’s biggest prize around the Second City.
‘All my heroes are Villans,’ will resonate with every Villan, young and old and especially during Villa’s most gleeful of years but Ron, a Hero and Villan in every sense will rest like too many before him, a Holte Ender in the Sky.
Before taking to Wembley for the second time as Villa boss in the Carabao Cup final, Dean spoke about representing the family as well as a football club, like his father would’ve wanted.
“You do it for your families, that’s what I always speak to the players about.
“First and foremost you have to play for yourselves. You’re the one who goes to bed and you have to put your head on the pillow and will be thinking about your performance? Did you do well enough?
“The other side of it is playing for your family because they are the important people in your lives who you want to send home happy.”
Ron passed with his family at his side, an official Aston Villa announcement read, having contracted Coronavirus four weeks ago.
Without Villa Park welcoming fans for at least the remainder of this season, it would’ve been some sight to witness a rendition of ‘Ron Smith’s claret and blue army’ reverberate across Villa Park’s four walls.