Earlier today, Aston Villa Head Coach Dean Smith signed a new four-year contract that will extend his stay at Villa Park until 2023. The contract itself is a deserved reward for Smith, who led the Villa to promotion earlier this year.
However, it's not just the tangible accolades that have made him so deserving of a new contract at the club, but the shift in attitude that Smith has built at Aston Villa.
Under former manager Steve Bruce, who Smith triumphed over for the second time this year on Monday, Aston Villa worked hard under a fairly positive club culture. Compared to years gone by, Bruce's dressing room seemed almost like revelation in terms of positive thinking.
However, there were outcasts who didn't fit in. Aaron Tshibola, a £5 million pound signing by Bruce's predecessor in the role, spoke to The Athletic to discuss his time spent in exile at the Villa under Steve Bruce. Alongside other expensive outcasts include Pierluigi Gollini, Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan, there is proof of some layer of squad discontent during Bruce's time at the club.
During that time, Bruce spoke of cost-cutting measures and financial insecurity - and while that is true to a certain extent, the main issue of this is one of waste. Almost £40 million of signings went unused by Steve Bruce.
The same cannot be said for Dean Smith, who has proven to be a savvy squad manager. While there are a few cases (Birkir Bjarnason and Lover Kalinic) of slight discontent and waste, it is nothing compared to seasons gone by. A good example of squad management is in Henri Lansbury - a high profile Steve Bruce signing who seemed destined for the transfer list. While that may still happen, Lansbury has evolved his game under Smith and seems a more than capable squad player who can step up for AVFC. Aston Villa under Smith are a happy and content squad. Aston Villa, under Smith, are a happy football club.
When has it ever felt this good to be a Villa fan? For me - never. The early 2000's were rose-tinted due to the fact that I was a child at the time. Even Martin O'Neill's time at the club comes with a certain caveat - one that the club was clearly punching well, well, above it's weight. It was never going to last.
Dean's greatest gift to younger Villa fans is optimism and hope. We are a naive team, a foolhardy team and a hot-headed team - but for once in our young lives, you can never truly count the Villa out.
You know what you're getting with Smith's Aston Villa, and while that makes it a fairly predictable team - it is an exciting and dynamic one. For the first time in a long while, Villa are fun to watch in almost every single game.
Speaking to Aston Villa's official website, Dean stated that he's “really happy to have committed my long term future to the Club. I’m looking forward to all the challenges that come with re-establishing Aston Villa as a top Premier League club.”
When Dean says something like that, it comes without the burden of 'small text' - for he's a manager that we can believe in.
For that reason, alone, he deserves our time and support. Villa are clearly ready to back him for the long term with a contract deal that is more than deserved.