Sometimes, when there’s something worth writing - there’s opinions worth gathering. I wanted to write about my excitement for the coming Dean Smith era at Aston Villa. Instead, I hit up the 7500 To Holte Slack channel and asked to question to the talented bullpen of writers we have here.
So. Are we excited about having Dean Smith in charge of Aston Villa?
Yes. Because it is a restart (though not the first one in the last few years). Villa had gotten stale and boring. Smith should bring a different brand of football. Plus the addition of a whole new structure to the club should (hopefully) make for a more stable organization as a whole and that can only be good for Villa.
Yeah, absolutely! I’ve seen a lot of people saying ‘when’s the last time you’ve been this excited for a new manager?’ and then a lot of people replying “every new one” but for me, a lot of what I’ve seen when I started following Villa heavily has been negative play, in negative times. If there’s a high-ish point for me (other than last season) it’s when Benteke was finding his form under Sherwood but that was short lived. I wasn’t too familiar with the Championship or Steve Bruce for that matter when he came to us, so there wasn’t a lot of excitement from me there, but like Phil said, the potential for this attacking style really could bring out the best in these great attacking players we have.
Above anything else, I’m happy because I feel like as supporters, we have our club back. Everything was beyond stale with Steve Bruce, and the appointment of a young, attack- and youth-minded manager is a huge win, even before you consider that he’s one of our own. While that gives me a little reason to be nervous — I so, so hope this works out both for Dean and Villa — there’s a reason for long-term belief in this club that didn’t exist a couple weeks ago with Bruce still at the helm. Even if Villa don’t go up this year, I think it’s likely they’ll be in a much stronger position in 12 months than they otherwise would have been.
But it must be said that even with the optimism. Some of the problems remain: FFP (don’t care what the brass are saying issues seem to be looming), back line lack of depth, and seeing how many RBs can be played at once.
Yeah, I’m still concerned about FFP. I don’t think we’ll ruin ourselves, but I fail to see how we’re able to curb our expenditure - and develop our income before March’s deadline. They must be plotting something. As for Smith, my thoughts are known. He’ll be given time (I hope) and he’s got every chance of becoming a hero. Look, even if Villa aren’t promoted - if he can get them playing like they should, I’ll call that a success this season.
Maybe it’s me being overly pessimistic and being a slave to the narrative but I almost think Dean Smith should have been the *next* hire for the club. I feel good about Smith on the whole for the reasons Alex pointed out, but mostly I just hope that he sticks around for the long term. Bruce’s appointment was just to get the club straight back up when they had a little bit of time with the FFP sword dangling above their heads. Now Smith is in and it seems more urgent than ever to get promoted. I appreciate that the club talked about removing the immediate pressure to go straight up, but what happens next year if they don’t and they catch hell for the losses they’ve accumulated? Hopefully it’s that Smith will stay the course, but I’d almost have preferred that to be the time to bring the local kid who was always destined for this post and pull us out of that problem while growing into the size of the club to clean house and tidy that mess up, rather than having him cutting his teeth with the immense pressure Villa currently has. It ultimately comes back to Bruce’s failure that the type of manager the club needed most to replace him was himself—a promotion expert who wouldn’t stay long, but would maximize the talent of the club with only the goal to get sent up. It always seemed like Smith would be the man at Villa at one time or another and hopefully this is the right time.
One of the questions that always nagged at me with the promotion push was “what are we going to do when we get there?“. I read about some signings we would have made should we have beaten Fulham, but it seemed to me we had relegation battle written all over us. Perhaps now there is an eye toward not only a sustainable future for the club, but a system and a platform from which Villa can actually compete when they go up. As an NFL Browns fan, I’m used to the stop and start of rebuilds and new setups. But the easiest way to earn patience and support is to show you have a plan, be transparent about said plan with the supporters, and demonstrate actual progress toward the stated goals. That’s how we should determine if the optimism is warranted now and in six months.
In the words of the prophet Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”