October 10, 2018. A crucial day in the history of Aston Villa Football Club as it marked the beginning of Dean Smith’s reign as our manager.
The 50-year-old boyhood Villa fan landed his dream job just over three years ago, and while there have unsurprisingly been bumps in the road along the way, he has enjoyed a positive stint in charge thus far.
From our 5th place finish in the Championship in his first season in charge which ultimately led to promotion through the Playoff final, to a 17th-placed finish in our first year back in the Premier League as we survived in dramatic fashion on the final day of the campaign.
That was followed by further progress as ended up in 11th spot in the top flight last season, as Smith and the ever-improving Villa squad look to build on that and improve once again this year.
Year-on-year on progress defining factor in Smith tenure
Naturally, as with any manager, Smith has had, and continues to have, his critics, whether that be of his style of play or personnel decisions week to week.
There’s never going to be a scenario where an entire fanbase agrees with every call a head coach makes, and the same applies to Smith as perhaps his hesitancy or slowness to make changes in games has emerged as one of the more prominent reasons for moans and groans from some quarters.
Nevertheless, what matters is whether or not we’re in a better place compared to when Smith was appointed and if there is genuine reason to believe that we’re moving in the right direction and continuing to become a more competitive side that is setting increasingly more ambitious objectives.
With that criteria in mind, Smith passes with flying colours. From dragging us back into the Premier League having replaced Steve Bruce at a difficult moment in the 2018/19 campaign, to ensuring we came out with the necessary desire and quality in Project Restart to survive and protect our top-flight status.
Last season was frustrating in many ways given how impressively we started it, and so falling away in the second half of the campaign to then finish in mid-table was probably below par.
That said, it was progress again as we climbed the table and never looked in danger of being part of the relegation battle, and it’s hoped that trend continues this season.
Additionally, compare the quality in the side to Smith’s first game in charge to even the first game back in the Premier League at Tottenham in 2019. Our current XI is significantly better and in turn is becoming increasingly more competitive at a high level, and it’s hoped that we find the consistency to really challenge the top eight places and potentially break into Europe sooner rather than later.
Smith has been under pressure and scrutiny throughout his tenure thus far, but he has delivered on the expectations of the ownership and the majority of Villa fans. Now though, comes arguably his biggest test to date as if we don’t build on last season and show signs of regression, it could prove to be problematic.
Nevertheless, given the job he’s done and continues to do, it’s been a memorable stint in charge for the right reasons to date, and it’s hoped that continues for many more years too.
🗓 October 10, 2018: Aston Villa appoint Dean Smith.
Days in charge: 1095
Players used: 61
— Talk Villa (@thetalkvilla) October 10, 2021