Aston Villa have turned to a childhood fan and a former player to try and turn their fortunes around and fire themselves back into the top-flight of English football.
Can Dean Smith and John Terry do it, though? Can they achieve success and get Villa back into the Premier League?
Who is Dean Smith?
Smith grew up in West Bromwich and has never hidden the fact that he was a passionate Aston Villa supporter as a child and regularly stood on the Holte End to cheer on his team. Now, he’s in the dugout.
He accumulated a lot of EFL experience as a player; representing clubs such as Walsall, Leyton Orient, and Sheffield Wednesday in a career spanning 16 years.
He returned to Walsall as a youth coach in 2009, before taking over as first-team manager in 2011. He was an instant hit amongst the Saddlers’ fanbase as he steered the club away from relegation in the short-term and then dragged the club up the table, whilst playing an attractive brand of football.
Due to Smith’s success at Walsall, he inevitably attracted interest from clubs in higher leagues and was headhunted by Championship side Brentford in 2015. He was lauded for bringing a progressive, stylish, entertaining style of football to Griffin Park and reaped the rewards for it with Brentford being a mainstay in the top end of the Championship for the past few seasons.
Who is John Terry?
Let’s be honest, Terry doesn’t really need much of an introduction, does he? He’s one of the most successful and highly-decorated English defenders of all-time and is now taking his first steps into coaching with former club Aston Villa.
After an incredible 19-year career with Chelsea, where he won just about everything there is to win in club football, Steve Bruce brought him to Aston Villa in the summer of 2017.
A string of impressive performances and a no-nonsense approach to defending made him an instant hit with the fans as he captained the team all the way to the Championship play-off final in May.
After turning down an offer to continue playing with Spartak Moscow, Terry decided to turn his attention to a career in coaching in the summer and his first stop in this journey was back where his playing career ended.
What do the fans think?
To say Bruce lost the faith of the supporters would be a bit of an understatement. Not many managers have had a cabbage thrown at them in protest. It was, therefore, very important that his replacement had the backing of the fans and it appears that Smith and Terry have exactly that.
James Rushton of 7500toHolte firmly backs the board’s decision to bring Smith and Terry to Villa Park. He said:
“I think Smith is the perfect appointment for Villa right now.”
“It’s not just because he’s local and supports the club, but because he has seemed to do the right things and grow – going from strength to strength throughout his career, taking his coaching philosophy with him. He’s not scared of change and is relishing the task of transforming Aston Villa.
“The appointment of Terry to back him up is smart. He will look to learn from Smith and develop his own methods so that he may eventually become a manager himself.
“This is forward-thinking, and should Smith depart Villa, the club may have a ready-made replacement waiting to step up.”
How will they fare?
For me, there was no stronger candidate out there than Smith for the vacant position at Villa Park, following the decision to fire Bruce.
The rumours of Thierry Henry and Rui Fara joining were interesting, but Smith doesn’t just bring an exciting style of football; he also brings a wealth of experience in the EFL and in the Championship.
The style of football that he’ll bring to Villa Park is likely to appease the fans and get them on their feet more than they were towards the end of the Bruce era. Brentford, since the start of the season, have completed over 2,000 passes, had more possession in every game and scored 20 goals in the league. That tells you a little bit about what the Villains will be about under Smith – patience, possession, and goals.
I truly believe Brentford were on the cusp of a proper push at promotion this season and, had Smith stayed with the club, there’s a very strong chance that they would have gone up to the top-flight. They may still do but he was building something special there, I feel.
The arrival of Terry is interesting.
The leadership qualities he possessed in his playing days coupled with his strong knowledge of Aston Villa should make him a handy assistant for Smith, although the working relationship he forms with the former Brentford manager will be pivotal to whether this experiment works or not. It just makes it all the more important that Smith was able to bring trusted sidekick Richard O’Kelly to the club as well then, in case a good bond with Terry doesn’t materialise.
Obviously, only time will tell how Smith and Terry will get on at Villa but there weren’t any obvious candidates better suited to the positions that they have filled and, if given both time and resources, I feel confident that this will be a successful venture for all parties.