In October 2018, Aston Villa sat 14th in the Championship table. After a summer that had brought the club to its knees, returning to the promised land looked a long shot at the third time of asking.
Dean Smith was appointed manager of the team he had supported all his life and immediately delivered on his assignment – promotion.
Back in the Premier League for the first time since the worst year in the club’s history, Smith’s Villans survived on the final day. Beating the odds, he retained the club’s place at the Premier League table.
This season, Villa’s pride are hunting the established League heavyweights. Signings such as Bertrand Traoré – a player who reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last year, as well as Morgan Sanson, who played six times for Marseille in the same competition this year, have strengthened the club’s sights. Add to this Champions League winning John Terry’s influence at the training ground, the scent of European blood is in the air at Villa Park.
For the driving force behind such drastic improvement in such little time, Dean Smith receives astounding scrutiny for his work.
Whilst the role of the head coach is to absorb flack, naturally, in passing games, the torrent of social media outcry has become almost embarrassing.
After some disappointing performances recently, waves of ‘supporters’ declaring the need for a new manager have been rife among our ranks!
Villa have had nine permanent managers since the 2009/10 season and had been in a decade of decline, Dean Smith being the second longest-serving man on that list acts as a reminder that belief and trust are so often key to such a role.
The likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger proved that given the trust of those around them, they could achieve greatness.
Whilst I refrain from referring to Smith in the same category as the aforementioned titans, the example of Sir Alex shows a similar early path to that of Smith’s.
Both managers took over their club’s at similar times during poor seasons. Smith began life at Villa languishing in the second division, only to promote the team seven months later. Ferguson oversaw a crusade from second bottom to eleventh in his first year in Manchester.
Ferguson eventually took his club to the pinnacle of club footballing accolades. It took time, but he was backed by his club to achieve greatness.
Aston Villa fans haven’t seen the club play a UEFA fixture since 2010 and Dean Smith is trusted to be the man to bring European nights to a new generation of fans.
Patience will be the determining factor in his quest.
Dean Smith fronting Villa’s Vision
NSWE, represented by Christian Purslow at Aston Villa, have outlined their aims for the club. In a statement last year, the owners revealed their ambitions.
“We will not be satisfied until we achieve our goal of bringing sustainable success to Aston Villa at the top tier of European football”
Being able to maintain a certain rate or level, is what a simple google search delivers.
Being sustainable can mean an awful lot in football, be it performances, finance, or results. One aspect the Villa hierarchy treasure is sustainability in leadership.
The owners understand that to achieve the best results, those in charge of delivering must be placed in nurturing environments. Dean Smith is still only in his third managerial placement – the Premier League being the highest level he has coached at.
To achieve what Villa ask of him, he must be given time. Thankfully, those in charge of the club have such philosophy rooted, for some fans, such mentality appears to lack. Looking back at the achievements over the past few years may be helpful in realising the magnitude of Smith’s fulfilments.
A promotion, successive seasons in the Premier League, and two trips to Wembley have all been product of Smith’s stewardship.
The year that’s passed without fan’s churning through the turnstiles has us all a little unsettled. That walk up the Holte End steps seems a lifetime ago for so many.
When we return, the team will be well on the way to top-flight establishment. Arguably the first time that’s been the case for almost a decade.
Dean Smith gave us our club back and deserves far more respect than he’s been afforded lately.
If all goes well, who’s to say the banner of Smith plastered onto the North Stand will be the only recognition of his services…