Dean Smith was more than the Head Coach of Aston Villa Football Club.
He was a gentleman that understood.
I am trying to avoid as many clichés as I can, I want to put on record the gratitude we owe him.
They say you don’t choose Aston Villa, it chooses you
In the summer of 2018, Aston Villa was a bleak football club. Deprived of a leader, defeat in the previous Championship campaign left our once great name teetering on the edge of self-destruction.
After the new owners had arrived, it wasn’t long before they acknowledged the desperate need for connection back at the football club.
The gap between fans, players, and ownership had become a chasm of false promises, deceit, and dismay.
‘I know this has been a tough gig for years, but someone’s got to turn it around’ said Smith, on the eve of his arrival.
‘Why can’t that someone be me?’
Words that now feel established.
They may not sound as elegant, or graceful, as Brian Moore’s lines in the 1982 European Cup final, or Ron Saunders ‘Do you want to bet against us’, but the candour of Smith’s locution is majestic.
After years of mismanagement, Dean Smith was the man to finally connect supporters with their team again.
A Villa fan like us, brought our club back, to us.
Whilst it’s gutting that he didn’t restore Villa to the lofty heights of European nights, I’d hate to dismiss the thought of Smith returning to Villa in some capacity in years to come.
Dean Smith leaves a monumental legacy at Aston Villa. His extensive attentiveness to the academy is a simple example, that will benefit the team far beyond his departure.
Taking our existing players to new heights was a joy we Villa fans got to share with the nation.
From players seemingly lost in the maze of professional football, Smith developed Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings into England internationals. Both of whom, he entrusted with the captaincy of our team.
Ollie Watkins (another he nurtured onto the international stage) has talked about how the kind nature of Smith convinced him to sign for Villa. The character of the man led to the striker describing him as ‘not just a manager, but a friend.
Dean Smith is one of the most honest, hard-working, and respectable people in football. Never did he hide behind excuses or blame defeat on his players, Smith led from the front just as he knew our club deserved – and needed.
A true credit to Aston Villa, whose name and contributions should never be forgotten.
Words can only go so far to show my gratitude, and as painful as it is to say goodbye, I hope he can now return to watching our team without the added stresses of being the boss!
As of his endeavours, we now proudly speak of the future of our club, rather than relying on the glories of yesteryear.
For understanding what it meant to be Aston Villa, there’s only one Dean Smith.