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Dean Smith & John Terry: what should Villa fans expect?

Aston Villa were founder members of both the football league in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992. They remained mainstays in football’s top flight from ’92 all the way up until the 2016-17 season. Relegation that campaign, however, ushered in an era of uncertainty and struggle like the Midlands club hasn’t known for decades.

Roberto di Matteo was first drafted in to try and return Villa to the Premier League in 2016-17 but lasted just 12 games. The hugely experienced Steve Bruce then replaced him and steered the Villans to the playoffs last year, but just couldn’t take the all-important final step. 12 games into the current campaign, Bruce was also given his marching orders and replaced by a brand-new coaching team of Dean Smith and John Terry. Just what, then, can Villa fans expect from those new men in charge?

Who is Dean Smith?

Dean Smith was born in West Bromwich in 1971 and was a boyhood Aston Villa fan. His dad, in fact, was once a steward at Villa Park. Smith had a long playing career as a central midfielder and racked up over 500 total appearances for a combination of Walsall, Hereford United, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale.

After a brief spell as assistant manager at Leyton Orient, Smith’s coaching career started in earnest in 2009 as the head of youth at Walsall. Just two years later, in 2011, Smith took over as manager of the club, with the Saddlers nine points adrift at the bottom of League One. He navigated the team to safety that season by just one point and began what would be a very successful tenure in the dugout.

In his four years at Walsall, Smith managed to take the club to a ninth-place finish in League One and also delivered the team’s first ever trip to Wembley when reaching the League Trophy final in 2015. The young manager’s achievements attracted the attention of Championship club Brentford and Smith would head to London in November 2015.

With a small budget to work with, Smith managed to build a Brentford side that was the envy of many in their division. The Bees finished 10th in 2016-17 and ninth in 2017-18, all the while playing an exciting and attractive brand of football. It was of little surprise to anyone, therefore, that Villa came knocking at Dean Smith’s door after dismissing Steve Bruce. The childhood Villa fan accepted his new position on the 10th October.

What Does John Terry Bring to the Table?

On the same day that Dean Smith was announced as the new number one at Villa Park, John Terry was also unveiled as his assistant. Terry is obviously most closely associated with Chelsea and England but did spend the final season of his playing career at Villa. In fact, he only left the club at the end of last season and only ultimately retired from playing three days before accepting his new managerial post.

As such, Terry does not boast any kind of managerial track record, but he does deliver plenty of top-flight playing experience, of a kind that his new boss never achieved. Terry, after all, made more than 500 appearances for Chelsea and a further 78 for England. Many of those appearances were as captain of his club and his country, and he led the Blues to five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one Europa League and a Champions League in his time as skipper.

Terry, therefore, has done all there is to do as a player and will surely command respect from a Villa dressing room made up of former Premier League performers and younger players looking to reach the game’s pinnacle for the first time.

What Do The Bookies Think?

Whilst they might sometimes be a bunch of money grabbing thugs it’s impossible to deny that the football odds your local bookmakers are offering are pretty close to a true reflection on the chances of that event occurring.

In Aston Villa’s case the best price you can get on them gaining promotion from the Championship to the Premier League this season is 6/1 with Betvictor, as a percentage that reflects a 14.29% probability of them making it.

Bet365 have got Villa at 2/1 to place in the top 6, an implied probability of 33.33%.

Overall that would seem to indicate the bigger bookmakers fancy Villa to make the play-offs but not secure automatic promotion.

What Can Fans Expect Stylistically?

Dean Smith and John Terry take over Aston Villa with the team sitting a disappointing 15th in the Championship table. More than that, however, they also take over a club playing a brand of football that has largely disappointed fans and pundits alike.

It is perhaps largely for that reason that Smith did get the nod. He is a manager, after all, with a reputation for playing attacking, attractive, possession-based football. His Brentford side, since the beginning of last season, attempted and completed over 2,000 more passes than Villa and averaged over 5% more possession per game.

Villa fans, therefore, can likely expect their side to start adapting to a shorter, more deliberate passing game, with fewer long balls and greater control over possession. What Smith will also need to do, however, is to find a way to shore up his new side’s leaky defence. There has been speculation that he may look to do this by switching to playing three at the back, but he may also have to make defence his focus in the upcoming January transfer window.

What Personnel Changes are on the Horizon?

After Smith was announced as the new Villa boss, it was widely reported that he had been given assurances of a healthy transfer budget to spend this coming January.  If that does prove to be the case, it seems likely that a new centre back to partner James Chester and a new left back may be high on his wish list. What’s not likely, however, is for Smith to sign highly experienced, older players, like Villa did when bringing in his new assistant as a player in 2016.

Throughout his managerial career so far, Smith has focussed his recruitment on youth and that seems likely to continue at Villa. 20-year-old Jamaican starlet Alex Marshall has already been linked with the club, as has the up-and-coming winger Ollie Watkins from Smith’s former club Brentford. Perhaps due to John Terry’s involvement at Villa, too, Chelsea wonderkid Callum Hudson-Odoi and former Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke have also been touted as potential arrivals.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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