Last Wednesday, it was announced that Dean Smith would leave Brentford to become Aston Villa’s new manager, following Steve Bruce’s sacking. John Terry was named as Smith’s assistant coach, while Jesús García Pitarch would become the new sporting director at Villa Park. Unsurprisingly, Smith’s appointment has caused a mixed reaction within the Aston Villa fan base. Some are saying that it’s a shrewd, sensible appointment, whilst others are insisting that Smith isn’t capable of tackling a job of this magnitude.
While many have criticized Villa for playing it safe with this choice, the Dean Smith appointment makes perfect sense for the Villans. At 47 years of age, Smith has already built up a respectable reputation from his time at Walsall and Brentford. His time at Brentford proved that he is brilliant at developing players and selling them for high prices. Harlee Dean, Jota and John Egan, to name a few, arrived at Griffin Park as nobodies, and all left for substantial fees. From Keinan Davies to James Bree, there is a plethora of young talent in Villa’s squad that is waiting to break through under a proven developer of talent like Smith. In addition, Brentford played a brilliant style of football under Smith, and this Villa squad is more than capable of doing the same.
The Other Options
There were plenty more “attractive” names than Dean Smith that were linked with the Villa job. Thierry Henry, John Terry, Rui Faria and Brendan Rodgers were all linked with a move to England’s second city, but for various reasons, these potential moves never came close to materialising. As one of, if not the greatest, Premier League players of all time, in addition to being a promising young coach, Thierry Henry was seen as the ideal choice, with Villa fans eager to absorb the same media attention that Derby and Leeds gained after hiring Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa this past summer, respectively. However, despite the obvious publicity, appointing Henry would have been extremely risky. While he has had experience training world-class players as Roberto Martínez’s assistant for the Belgium National Team, this would have been his first managerial job, assisting Roberto Martinez with the Belgium National Team but this would have been his first managerial job; sending him to a 15th-placed Championship team, a team eager for promotion, would be akin to throwing a child into the deep end of a pool when he’s still learning to swim.Villa were wise to not make the same mistake as local rivals Birmingham City, who appointed Gianfranco Zola and sacked him after just 2 wins in 22 games. It can’t be assumed that just because he was a world class player, he will be a world class manager.
Rui Faria, who left his role as assistant manager at Manchester United in the summer, would have been an intriguing choice but yet again, he hasn’t had the experience of being a head coach yet. Brendan Rodgers would have been an amazing but unrealistic appointment; it was always unlikely that he’d give up a relatively easy job at Celtic to try and rebuild Villa. There was, of course, the same old group of tactically outdated managers that seem to get linked with nearly every job in English football, consisting of Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, Alan Pardew, and Harry Redknapp, among others. Villa did well to steer clear of these dinosaurs.
What’s next for Brentford?
Unlike many other Championship clubs, Brentford have responsible owners and a very impressive system. They are a financially responsible club that rely on intensive statistical analysis and superb recruitment; a club model that drives other Championship teams green with envy at its efficiency and effectiveness. There’s no doubt that Brentford will take their time in appointing a sensible replacement. With the Bees not having a game to play until the 20th of October, they have ample time to decide who the right man for the job is; expect them to eschew a big-name replacement for an unheralded coach who has the managerial skills to keep Brentford punching above their weight, and to keep the Griffin Park faithful entertained. Expect Brentford to look to the lower leagues or even abroad to find their next manager, who will certainly be lesser known and on low wages. Losing a manager after two months is an obvious setback, but Brentford have an impressive array of players; they could even sneak into a play-off spot if they’re lucky.
Whilst the appointment of Dean Smith is nowhere near exciting as the appointment of Thierry Henry would be, Smith is a better option. He has experience in English football, and his time at Brentford and Walsall proves that he has what it takes to manage Aston Villa. He managed to build a consistent team that played lovely football on a shoestring budget, and at Villa, he will have a lot more resources to work with, as well as a better squad.
Despite the positives, the Aston Villa job has proven to be a poisoned chalice in the past, with Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Bruce both being sacked in the past couple of years. The Brentford and Villa jobs are completely different tasks, as there are huge expectations at Villa Park compared to the more modest standards of Griffin Park. Even after their poor start to the season, many Villa fans still hold out hope for promotion, so if results don’t go their way soon enough, expect the honeymoon period to end prematurely. As a Villa fan himself, Smith knows he needs to perform straight away or he’ll be sacked. This job has the highest stakes in the Championship; with the pressure that he must manage on his shoulders, this job will be a litmus test to decide whether or not Dean Smith truly has what it takes to become a top manager.
With Villa getting a promising, young English manager, and with Brentford getting a hefty compensation package to ease the blow, this move is a good deal for both parties–Brentford fans knew they were going to lose Smith sooner or later. Aston Villa made the sensible choice and Brentford should be able to cope without him.
By: Thomas Owen
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