‘Get the bullet’ Why Aston Villa have two Walsall players to thank
Dean Smith had no intentions of becoming a manager, let alone leading his beloved Aston Villa into the Premier League.
Villa, you could say, have Jon Macken and Andy Butler to thank after the Walsall duo salvaged a point at a rain-soaked Prenton Park.
January 8, 2011 was the date. Smith’s first taste of management after replacing Chris Hutchinson as Saddlers boss.
Walsall were 3-1 down with just five minutes on the clock but Smith, who was just a development coach at that time, was hooked.
“I knew why I’d been put into with that job because the players weren’t playing very well at that time,” Smith reflected, “and we managed to get two goals in the last five minutes.
“I really enjoyed the experience of managing. I said at the time that I had no ambitions of becoming a manager having seen so many of my friends get the bullet, myself as well when I was with Martin Ling on Leyton Orient.
“I enjoyed the development side of things, working with the 18s at Walsall but, when I first took over, I felt comfortable and felt it was the right job for me. I always believe that you learn from your experiences.”
Smith, meanwhile, has been managing ever since and the love of coaching has been overridden by the thrill of a match day. “I always say to people, I love training, I love coaching but I adore the match,” he said. “The match day is what I look forward to. It gets the juices going on the touchline. It’s your chess game the opposition, I really enjoy that.”
Smith will lead Villa out against Tottenham on Saturday in the club’s first Premier League encounter for three years. Afterwards, he says, he’ll pick Mauricio Pochettino‘s brain and quiz him on how Spurs viewed his Villa.
The much-loved manager also joked how “winning the league!” would be deemed a great season, but added: “A good season is going in and putting in good performances regularly, it has to be having consistent performances.
“As a head coach I like to be consistent with the players but I want them to go and give consistent performances and, if they do that, they give us a chance of winning any game.
“I always believe when somebody comes into this football club and I say this to the players: you should feel it, see it and hear it and I want that to be the case, even when they leave. They go: that’s on the up, the culture at that place is a winning culture and one of improvement and development.”
Smith, just like his days at Walsall, says he’ll now write his own future and make history by performing well in the Premier League.
He said: “I look back on the history of Aston Villa with fondness because I’m a supporter. I can relate to the cups they’ve won, they won the league in 80-81 with 14 players, that’ll never be happen again, won the European Cup, League Cups but that’s the history and we have to make our own history now by going in, performing and trying to establish ourselves as a Premier League team.”