I’d be very surprised if Dean Smith really wanted John Terry as his No.2 at Aston Villa. I think it was a case of the owners saying ‘We’re appointing John Terry as an assistant – now who wants to be manager?’.
That’s a pretty risky strategy because an assistant has to be someone that his manager trusts impeccably.
Why? Because he’s the one who all the pros will go to with their gripes and concerns, all their problems and issues.
As a player, I spoke to many an assistant about the way I really felt. If I’d taken those complaints to the manager, I’d probably have flown off the handle – and that’s the point. Bet on football with Mansionbet
The assistant is a buffer. He’s not the person who makes the decisions or the person affected by them, so he isn’t emotionally involved.
He’s a diplomat, basically. For instance, I might complain about not starting games and the assistant will say ‘Listen, I won’t tell the manager what you’ve said, but this is why you aren’t playing’.
Other times, he might have a word in the manager’s ear about someone who is having personal problems or an issue at home. He’s someone who needs a foot in both camps – but his loyalty must lie with the manager.
When you don’t know each other, that has the potential to be an obstacle. Nevertheless, I don’t think a man of Dean’s experience would have risked going in blind.
He’ll have spoken to people in the game about John. They’ll have met for lunch or a coffee, discussed how to make things work.
And I’m sure Dean will value the fact that Terry knows the dressing room very well from his stint at Villa Park last year. It seems to me that his presence got the best out of Jack Grealish and you can clearly see just how much he’s been missed this season.
I’d guess they got on absolutely fine and, ultimately, there’s a huge incentive for both of them to make it work.
Terry aside, I think Dean is the right man for job. He built a club at Walsall. He built a club at Brentford. He’s a Villa fan. You just have to look what Chris Wilder’s done at Sheffield United to see how that can galvanise a club. He’ll make those players sweat blood for that shirt.
Dean also plays great football. Everything went a little bit flat under Steve Bruce and I think he’ll bring the excitement back.
The only question is, how fast can those players adjust from the direct style of Steve Bruce to the fluid football of Dean Smith? It really is night and day.
That’s where supporters will have to patient, because Brentford’s determination to play out from the back does cost them goals.
I remember when Gus Poyet came in at Brighton and banned goal-kicks from crossing the halfway line. Everything had to go short.
Gus said ‘This is the way we’re going to play. I guarantee you that we will concede five goals from mistakes at the back. You’ll play in the wrong areas, you’ll get caught on the ball and we’ll get done. But I promise that we’ll win more games than we lose’.
It was hard at first, and we did ship goals. But Brighton ended up winning League One, getting to the Championship play-offs and those were the foundations for where the club is today.
The players at Villa will have to be brave on the ball, and they might take a bit of stick. But I think they’ve got the characters – and the quality – to cope with that.
If it works, watch them go. You talk to Brentford fans and they all love going to watch their team. It’s exciting, it’s attacking – everything you want as a supporter.
And they don’t have stars. They’ve just got good players and great spirit, which is exactly what Villa need.
Dean wasn’t the first choice. We all know Thierry Henry turned Villa down. But put it this way: If you’d taken a poll of every manager in the Championship and asked who’d be better suited to the job between Dean and Henry, 95 per cent of them would have said Dean.