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45 minutes ago, John said:

The excellent interview below between Jonathan Northcroft and Dean, is from yesterday's "Sunday Times" and it concerns our progress over the past 12 months: 

Soaked and hungry, on a bleak hillside, Dean Smith had no choice but to keep grappling with his adversary. It was a tent. Putting it up almost defeated him, but Smith persevered and was able to join Tyrone Mings and the rest round the fire for dinner. “I was just one of the boys that day,” he says, “rather than the actual leader.” In August, Aston Villa’s manager took his squad out into the Brecon Beacons, challenging them to a night on the Welsh mountains where they had to navigate, lug their own gear, erect their own shelter, and work in groups — himself included. The trip was a surprise, sprung on players during a pre-season training camp in Cardiff. When they trudged back to civilisation, Smith pointed out that the four-star hotel where they were based — something as Premier League footballers they could take for granted — seemed a luxury now. He talked about the importance of connecting with colleagues and not just others within the playing group but ordinary staff at the club.

“One of my biggest things in any workplace is you have to build a culture,” Smith says. “My players are young men and those who had been in Premier League academies a long time have had a lot of things done for them. And sometimes it is good to see them in another walk of life, just having to think and cope in a different environment. “A lot you could see thinking, ‘What are we doing?’ but as it went on were thinking, ‘This is all right. Actually, better than running round a field in pre-season.’ They certainly got a lot out of it — you saw new relationships form. Though it did tip down with rain. My group was one of the last ones and I could see them sitting round the campfire, eating and I’m having to stick my own tent up.”

There are many things, behind the amiability that can cause him to be underestimated, that make Smith a star of his profession, the top-placed English manager in England, and one of the biggest success stories of football’s strangest year. One is an approach to leadership based on understanding people and the kind of humility shown by putting aside boss’s privileges to struggle among the rank and file. Another is the inclination to think deeply about the details. The past 12 months have demonstrated those qualities to the full. When you think of how coronavirus has challenged their sport, it is hard not to think of Smith and his club. Before the Premier League shut down a year ago this week, its final game was Leicester 4 Aston Villa 0, a result that left Villa 19th and to spend three months knowing they would be relegated if 2019-20 was curtailed. When the season restarted, they were tasked with playing in the first game (v Sheffield United) and taking that step into the unknown on behalf of all 20 clubs. This season, headaches include closure of their training ground after an outbreak there in January. On the human side, Smith had to get the balance of discipline and empathy right when dealing with a breach of lockdown rules by his captain, Jack Grealish. And, most of all, he had to keep leading while grieving for his father, Ron, who died last May at the age of 79 after contracting Covid-19. Out of all of this, he has emerged with a stronger club and a team markedly improved, who are competing for Europe rather than trying to avoid the drop.

In shutdown, Smith watched in entirety every game Villa had played in 2019-20, looking particularly at the defending. “We’d conceded too many goals [the most in the league] and too many big chances. I got the analysts to give us the stats. Since my Brentford days I’ve looked at big chances for and against because ultimately they decide results. I went into the Premier League wanting not to ‘not lose’ but wanting to win. There’s a big difference. We lost our first game to Tottenham and people were impressed with our performance but Spurs had 24 chances on the day, and I was like, ‘Woah, that’s too many.’ “So it was always in the back of my mind, but I suppose at some stage my ego had got into it and it was, ‘I don’t want to play the likes of Liverpool and just defend.’ But against better teams you have to learn quickly and we had to become more pragmatic.” Smith identified Liverpool, Manchester City — and Napoli — as “best practice of defending. With the analysts we clipped up their best [examples] and sent them to players and held small group meetings.” Why those sides? “They weren’t just defending as a back four and goalkeeper, but as a whole team. We’ve always wanted to be a team who counterpresses quickly. You watch Liverpool and City and it’s difficult to get past their front three, then it’s difficult to get past the next three before you even get to the back five.” Improved defending, when they returned, helped Villa survive and this season only City have more clean sheets. Smith prepared intently for that “Project Restart” game v Sheffield United. With the Bundesliga already back under way, he spoke at length with Uwe Rösler, manager of Fortuna Dusseldorf, about playing in empty stadiums. “I moved my coaching position because there were no fans and I was able to go up higher,” he says. “I could see the whole picture and knew the players would still hear me.”

He pondered how games might be from referees’ perspectives, and to get their squads sharp, he and Brendan Rodgers organised for Villa and Leicester to play each other twice in one day, once at King Power Stadium, once at Villa Park. Then there has been training. Initially restricted to small groups, since the restart there have been too many fixtures to follow normal practice and recovery schedules. It has called for staffs to be flexible — second nature to someone who began coaching at just 30 with an under-13 team in east London and began managing at Walsall. “It has helped, having that backdrop,” he reflects. “Improvising is what lower league coaches have to do. “Teams normally train at 10.30am or 11am but we were training at different times when we came back and now we train at 12pm. That came to me from the improvisation of training at different times.” The reason is fascinating. “I thought players, young men, now, they’re different. They don’t go to bed like we used to at 11pm. They go to bed at two in the morning. They’ve all got an Xbox, a PS4 and they’re up later. I thought OK if they’re getting to bed later, let’s get them up later. Because sleep is such an important part of recovery. We stayed with 12pm training and I feel we get a little bit more from them as players.”

Meticulous recruitment was also learnt in the lower leagues. Smith has a strong relationship with sporting director Johan Lange and together they have fuelled Villa’s improvement through “value” signings such as Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martínez and Matty Cash. “Profiling players is something I’ve done since Walsall and players have to fit your style of play and for me the biggest thing is their character and potential. That learning ability.” Grealish is learning under Smith. Their bond is close. “You have an idea of what somebody is going to be like before you meet them but the reality was totally different,” he says. “I came into the club [in 2018] and found a player who wanted to get better, to learn, who was one of the last out. Certainly wasn’t one of the first in, though. Was probably one of the night owls as well. I challenged him to improve his goals and assists and he grasped that importance straight away. He has a really good memory for football. I’ll talk about an incident where he could have got in the box and he’ll say, ‘Yeah, that was in the 71st minute . . .’ ” When Grealish crashed his car after a party during lockdown last March, “it was that conversation with him, reminding him of his responsibilities. People make mistakes and I think he has learnt some big lessons very quickly, and like any young person that’s how they mature. That’s how I matured and you probably matured as well — but fortunately for us we weren’t in the public eye.”

When Smith’s father died he was deeply touched by the support he received from supporters and within football, including from Pep Guardiola, who lost his mother to Covid. “My dad had been in a care home with dementia, so wasn’t in the best of health, but it was really tough for the family because we couldn’t go and see him. Fortunately, we could be by his side when he passed,” says Smith. “I can sympathise with anybody who has lost a loved one during Covid, and dementia as well is a terrible illness.”

 

 

Thanks John. If I remember rightly, the weather was pretty wet when they went on that trip? The beacons can be brutal, I live about a half hour drive away.

They are an amazing place. Would've been a real eye opener for them. A great idea for a bonding trip. Love to hear little snippets about this kind of thing. 

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31 minutes ago, Mjvilla said:

Posts saying 'we give the ball away too much' are absolutely fine tro. I'd agree, we can be very careless at times. These sorts of posts aren't the issue, not in the slightest. Areas which we can improve.

It's this kind of one that gets people's goats. And it's from multiple sources across multiple threads. The ratings and reactions thread, the match thread, the Dean Smith thread, virtually any thread it remotely links in too. Absolutely baseless rubbish. Not when you consider the base was a game in isolation against Sheffield United. This happens alot. It didn't take me long to find the kind of post I thought about when I read your post.

Ignore function mate. It’s the only way. Just seeing that post you quoted reminded me of why I’ve had to use it. 

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56 minutes ago, TRO said:

It is easy to react to a post being a wind up, when you don't agree with it......you could be right by the way....I just take it at face value, maybe I am naive, I just can't see the point of a wind up.

but we also have to remember, there are varying levels of ages, personalities and intellectual background ...between us.

If someone slags off a player or manager, without  feasible support to their case, I just ignore it......If someone makes a case against the manager or a player, with a reasonable deduction of why they have arrived at their opinion, despite me maybe disagreeing....I will still read it with Interest and may respond with my reasoning....nothing wrong in agreeing to disagree.....if its a player, I will watch a bit closer, next time out.

but thats just me.

I have been watching Villa, for over 60 years and still learning about my team.

I, too, don't see the point of a wind up. I don't think it is a wind up.

When I see certain posts, I think I do need to think more about your second paragraph. This is a very true statement. 

I just see the disrespect toward Smith, from this and many other posts and it frustrates me. I keep talking about last season and the season before because we need to think about all this when looking at posts like the one I quoted. Not in relation to constructive criticism.

Is it fair to say 'we can be too soft in the middle sometimes'.. yes absolutely. I wouldn't bring up Smith's achievements then. 

Is it fair to say 'smith is a muppet' or 'smith has hit his ceiling' or 'hes not going to be a top tier manager and he's doing a good job for someone else to take over in a few years', no it's absolutely bloody not. When talking about these sorts of things, I think it's ok to talk about his past achievements over previous years with us. Why not, what else can we base what will happen in the future? A single game in isolation? Which was disappointing? Or year upon year of progress and development on and off the field? 

None of this is in anyway a dig at you tro, btw. Don't want to come across that way.

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2 hours ago, TRO said:

It is easy to react to a post being a wind up, when you don't agree with it......you could be right by the way....I just take it at face value, maybe I am naive, I just can't see the point of a wind up.

but we also have to remember, there are varying levels of ages, personalities and intellectual background ...between us.

If someone slags off a player or manager, without  feasible support to their case, I just ignore it......If someone makes a case against the manager or a player, with a reasonable deduction of why they have arrived at their opinion, despite me maybe disagreeing....I will still read it with Interest and may respond with my reasoning....nothing wrong in agreeing to disagree.....if its a player, I will watch a bit closer, next time out.

but thats just me.

I have been watching Villa, for over 60 years and still learning about my team.

In addition to all your eloquence, we should also remember that on a match day/weekend some people are 12 beers/cocktails in. 

As you say different moods too.

I'll admit there have been times where I'm just having a crap day in general, with Villa the only thing to look forward to, and them making it worse. Lol

In turn, the forum gets it. 

Not right, but it's human nature to some extent.

Edited by JAMAICAN-VILLAN
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16 hours ago, DCJonah said:

I said this thread, not the board. 

My point was the same people moaned when we win, so it's not as if they just make valid criticisms every so often. It's been a constant theme for some. 

The fact you had to trawl back to the Southampton game to “prove” your “point” suggests there maybe isn’t a valid point there.

I enjoyed the Southampton game because it showed we were learning to grind out results despite not being completely in control of the game - something we didn’t do too much last season but have got a bit better at in 2020/1. However, I perfectly understand that some fans found it an uncomfortable experience and wanted to express their nervousness and frustration at spending so much of the game under pressure in defence. If we can’t tolerate a range of reactions, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a match, this board isn’t going to be much of a read. 

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My Dad, a PNE fan, mentioned the other day that he could see Smith as England manager one day and that day could be soon depending on our performance at the Euros. He's not the first person in the last few months to mention that possibility either. What Smith has done so far has been remarkable and it is often forgotten that he's got us into the top half of the Prem both defending well and playing attractive football.

I actually genuinely enjoy watching Villa again which is such a great thing after the last decade of absolute dross. Having watched other teams in the past and wishing we could get their players or coaching staff so that we could be a better watch. I think there are things we can improve on definitely, if there wasn't we'd be top of the table, but I'm confident we're going in the right direction and I think we'll continue to do so keeping faith with the current people in place 

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28 minutes ago, briny_ear said:

The fact you had to trawl back to the Southampton game to “prove” your “point” suggests there maybe isn’t a valid point there.

I enjoyed the Southampton game because it showed we were learning to grind out results despite not being completely in control of the game - something we didn’t do too much last season but have got a bit better at in 2020/1. However, I perfectly understand that some fans found it an uncomfortable experience and wanted to express their nervousness and frustration at spending so much of the game under pressure in defence. If we can’t tolerate a range of reactions, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a match, this board isn’t going to be much of a read. 

Sorry but I think he does have a valid point.

As for your last sentence, I think we all appreciate the range of views, the debate, discussion and even some arguments on here, hence why we keep coming back.  I enjoy seeing other point of views, things I’m missed or didn’t know and it’s also changed my view on some things when people make sense.

We are having a trend though from some, like DC Jonah comments on so I agree his point.  I used the ignore function for them, then they were dominating the threads, so I came back for a few games and saw it and stupidly commented on but now I just stay away from those threads in the last week because ignoring those people means ignoring most of the chatter because people are just replying to them so easier just to ignore the thread at times, which disappoints me because I want to come on here and have good debates but the nonsense has got in the way.

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3 minutes ago, skarroki said:

My Dad, a PNE fan, mentioned the other day that he could see Smith as England manager one day and that day could be soon depending on our performance at the Euros. He's not the first person in the last few months to mention that possibility either. What Smith has done so far has been remarkable and it is often forgotten that he's got us into the top half of the Prem both defending well and playing attractive football.

I actually genuinely enjoy watching Villa again which is such a great thing after the last decade of absolute dross. Having watched other teams in the past and wishing we could get their players or coaching staff so that we could be a better watch. I think there are things we can improve on definitely, if there wasn't we'd be top of the table, but I'm confident we're going in the right direction and I think we'll continue to do so keeping faith with the current people in place 

I’m not sure the England job is as attractive as it used to be.  It is the pinnacle for any English manager but it doesn’t have that pull currently.  Managing your home town club back to better times, hopefully trophies in years to come or the pitfalls of being the England manager....it’s hard to see it being a pull for Smith or many current successful managers.

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15 hours ago, Mjvilla said:

I, too, don't see the point of a wind up. I don't think it is a wind up.

When I see certain posts, I think I do need to think more about your second paragraph. This is a very true statement. 

I just see the disrespect toward Smith, from this and many other posts and it frustrates me. I keep talking about last season and the season before because we need to think about all this when looking at posts like the one I quoted. Not in relation to constructive criticism.

Is it fair to say 'we can be too soft in the middle sometimes'.. yes absolutely. I wouldn't bring up Smith's achievements then. 

Is it fair to say 'smith is a muppet' or 'smith has hit his ceiling' or 'hes not going to be a top tier manager and he's doing a good job for someone else to take over in a few years', no it's absolutely bloody not. When talking about these sorts of things, I think it's ok to talk about his past achievements over previous years with us. Why not, what else can we base what will happen in the future? A single game in isolation? Which was disappointing? Or year upon year of progress and development on and off the field? 

None of this is in anyway a dig at you tro, btw. Don't want to come across that way.

There is no doubt in my mind that Dean Smith is a good manager, I haven't always been as sure as I am now.....but,He is still learning IMO.....As an Example...I don't think our team is as rounded as West Ham. They have a more varied personnel to meet all eventualities.

I hope he see's what I see that the midfield in particular are too samey.....not bad players, but too similar in style.....I can't see him improving the defence, in terms of new faces, just work on the training ground.

It leaves him to focus on about 4 players to improve our first team...and get cover for the defence.

This season has been a massive improvement.

I don't want to see a Thomas Tuchel type character arrive, who cares not what club he is at......I want Dean to progress himself and subsequently progress us.

We have a unique situation as I see it at Villa, never in my many years have I seen the harmony and the single minded intent of progressing this club, from the top down.....it is truly encouraging.

 

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45 minutes ago, TRO said:

We have a unique situation as I see it at Villa, never in my many years have I seen the harmony and the single minded intent of progressing this club, from the top down.....it is truly encouraging.

This so much.

That is also one of the reaons I am ok with bad games, because they happen. And at least I know the players are trying. This is so much better to see than much of the last decade has shown us. We gave the ball away way to much in the game vs Wolves, horrible passes going no where. Same vs Sheffield United. It doesnt bug me, I expected a bottom half fight this season, but Smith has improved, and is improving continuesly. Myself, I am looking forward to every bloody match now, instead of dreading the inevitable ruining of the weekend from horrible performances.

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52 minutes ago, TRO said:

There is no doubt in my mind that Dean Smith is a good manager, I haven't always been as sure as I am now.....but,He is still learning IMO.....As an Example...I don't think our team is as rounded as West Ham. They have a more varied personnel to meet all eventualities.

I hope he see's what I see that the midfield in particular are too samey.....not bad players, but too similar in style.....I can't see him improving the defence, in terms of new faces, just work on the training ground.

It leaves him to focus on about 4 players to improve our first team...and get cover for the defence.

This season has been a massive improvement.

I don't want to see a Thomas Tuchel type character arrive, who cares not what club he is at......I want Dean to progress himself and subsequently progress us.

We have a unique situation as I see it at Villa, never in my many years have I seen the harmony and the single minded intent of progressing this club, from the top down.....it is truly encouraging.

 

I agree that our midfield players do seem to play the same, it would make more sense to mix things up and play the game different. That article you sent me TRO may help people on here understand more what your trying to get at and it really would make sense to have our midfield players behave and act differently on the pitch which in turn could yield slot of very interesting results.

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2 hours ago, MentalM said:

This so much.

That is also one of the reaons I am ok with bad games, because they happen. And at least I know the players are trying. This is so much better to see than much of the last decade has shown us. We gave the ball away way to much in the game vs Wolves, horrible passes going no where. Same vs Sheffield United. It doesnt bug me, I expected a bottom half fight this season, but Smith has improved, and is improving continuesly. Myself, I am looking forward to every bloody match now, instead of dreading the inevitable ruining of the weekend from horrible performances.

Yup - that's exactly where I'm at too. We're quite a bit ahead of schedule as far as I'm concerned and it's important for people to understand that there'll be rough and smooth along the way. This is only the 2nd season after a nigh-on total rebuild following promotion - we're doing really well. 

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On 09/03/2021 at 00:23, briny_ear said:

The fact you had to trawl back to the Southampton game to “prove” your “point” suggests there maybe isn’t a valid point there.

I enjoyed the Southampton game because it showed we were learning to grind out results despite not being completely in control of the game - something we didn’t do too much last season but have got a bit better at in 2020/1. However, I perfectly understand that some fans found it an uncomfortable experience and wanted to express their nervousness and frustration at spending so much of the game under pressure in defence. If we can’t tolerate a range of reactions, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a match, this board isn’t going to be much of a read. 

Trawl back? No not really. I can clearly remember. And if you think that's the only time the usual posters have criticised Dean Smith then I can see why you've chosen to ignore the point. 

There's a difference between expressing nervousness and frustration, and then claiming the manager was wrong, even though we've won the game. 

I can tolerate a range of reactions. There are many posters who share different opinions that I enjoy reading. It's the ones that moan and criticise no matter what that I choose to respond to. Or the idea that if Dean Smith did what VT demanded we'd be better off in the league. 

 

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On 08/03/2021 at 16:52, TRO said:

It is easy to react to a post being a wind up, when you don't agree with it......you could be right by the way....I just take it at face value, maybe I am naive, I just can't see the point of a wind up.

but we also have to remember, there are varying levels of ages, personalities and intellectual background ...between us.

If someone slags off a player or manager, without  feasible support to their case, I just ignore it......If someone makes a case against the manager or a player, with a reasonable deduction of why they have arrived at their opinion, despite me maybe disagreeing....I will still read it with Interest and may respond with my reasoning....nothing wrong in agreeing to disagree.....if its a player, I will watch a bit closer, next time out.

but thats just me.

I have been watching Villa, for over 60 years and still learning about my team.

I didn't know common sense and being responsible was a thing on VT, could this be catching on as of late, we are in uncharted territory here 🤣

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On 08/03/2021 at 19:33, JAMAICAN-VILLAN said:

In addition to all your eloquence, we should also remember that on a match day/weekend some people are 12 beers/cocktails in. 

As you say different moods too.

I'll admit there have been times where I'm just having a crap day in general, with Villa the only thing to look forward to, and them making it worse. Lol

In turn, the forum gets it. 

Not right, but it's human nature to some extent.

So. Many. Times.

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57 minutes ago, Don_Simon said:

So. Many. Times.

This properly made me laugh but on the flip side, December was a terrible month for me personally and Villa were one of the things that actually brought me some joy.  Their lapse in form has coincided with things settling down for me but they were there when I needed them 😄

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4 minutes ago, WallisFrizz said:

This properly made me laugh but on the flip side, December was a terrible month for me personally and Villa were one of the things that actually brought me some joy.  Their lapse in form has coincided with things settling down for me but they were there when I needed them 😄

There's an obvious comment to make her, but I won't, your happiness is important to us all. 

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On 09/03/2021 at 03:10, nick76 said:

I’m not sure the England job is as attractive as it used to be.  It is the pinnacle for any English manager but it doesn’t have that pull currently.  Managing your home town club back to better times, hopefully trophies in years to come or the pitfalls of being the England manager....it’s hard to see it being a pull for Smith or many current successful managers.

I don't think Smith would like the England gig. Not enough going on, awful politics and media. International manager jobs are basically for managers who couldn't cut it in the league - that's where the action is these days. 

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