Earlier today, Aston Villa announced that they had parted company with manager Dean Smith. To those close to the club, it didn’t come as a big surprise.
Following Villa’s fifth defeat in a row against Southampton on Friday night and Villa’s 18th this year (the most in the Premier League) the pressure was always going to be on. Looking at the managers face following the defeat, you could predict it was written in the stars.
In a statement on the official website, Christian Purslow stated: “When Dean joined us in October 2018 our team was really struggling in The Championship. He immediately transformed the atmosphere and performances and achieved the ultimate success of leading Villa back to the Premier League within the same season – a rare feat.
“He then secured our place in the Premier League after a tough campaign and took us to a Cup Final at Wembley.
“However, after a good start to last season, this year we have not seen the continuous improvement in results, performances and league position which we have all been looking for. For this reason, we have decided to make a change now to allow time for a new head coach to make an impact.
“The Board would like to sincerely thank Dean for his many excellent achievements, on and off the pitch, during this time. Everyone knows how much Aston Villa means to Dean and his family. He has represented the Club with distinction and dignity – universally liked and respected by everybody associated with Aston Villa – our staff, players and supporters alike. We wish him the very best.”
When did it all go wrong?
It’s so easy to look back at the defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers last month. Villa looked comfortable as they were winning 2-0 with just 10 minutes to go but ended up losing 2-3.
The reality is, it goes a lot further back than that. Back in January, Villa arguably played some of their best football during Smith’s reign away at Burnley and failed to take their chances. Despite this, they were still 1-2 ahead with 15 minutes left to play. Similar to Wolves, they threw away their lead and come away from Turf Moor with nothing.
Villa then went on to lose a further 8 games that season and any hopes of a European charge were long gone.
Christian Purslow spoke about how disappointed the club were by the second half of the season over the summer but remained upbeat and said Villa would push on this season.
Over the summer we witnessed cancelled friendlies, Covid issues and of course, the loss of Jack Grealish. Despite this, replacements were signed and Smith and the board remained confident.
Villa kicked off the season with a defeat to newly-promoted Watford as they looked way off the pace and under-prepared. Hardly a surprise given the pre-season they had.
Wins over Newcastle, Everton and Manchester United in between a home draw to Brentford and a defeat to Chelsea gave Villa hope but that’s when it started going wrong.
Villa looked lost and under-performed in defeats against Arsenal, West Ham and Southampton. We witnessed players arguing with each other on the pitch and fans started to lose faith in what was going on.
Although the fans never turned on Dean Smith, most would accept that time was up and as I already stated, it was hardly a surprise when the statement come today.
Thank You, Dean
In one way, I am glad it’s over now. It didn’t turn toxic and I didn’t want to witness the faithful turning on Smith.
As Purslow stated in his statement, he turned things around when Villa were embarrassing themselves and their fans as they sat mid-table in the Championship. He gave us hope and belief again and made so many fans fall back in love with their football club.
Smith was the right man at the right time and some would argue he took us further than we ever anticipated he would.
No doubt he is hurting tonight, as so many Villa fans are. Nobody knows who or what is next for Villa. Nobody knows what the future holds but I think if we are all honest with ourselves, it was the right decision.
Thank you, Dean, I wish you all the best in the future and we look forward to seeing you back at Villa Park, as one of us, an Aston Villa supporter.