With Aston Villa’s triple appointment of Head Coach Dean Smith, Assistant Coach John Terry and Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch late last night, a number of fans are wondering what we can expect.
We, of course, know the struggles we’ve had during our time in the Championship against Smith’s former side Brentford, their style of play and the way he prefers them to attack and that was largely (from what I know) what Walsall fans loved him for as well.
Ironically, our last game against Brentford saw us perform better again them.
Smith coaches rather than dictates it seems, and his job is to work mainly with what he has rather than being overly involved in transfer plans – but he will have a say, just possibly not the final one.
I know he took Romaine Sawyers with him as he switched the Bescot for Griffin Park and I’m assuming he had something of a hand in the capture of goalkeeper Dan Bentley, and there were a number of Villans who wished we were in for him back then.
So he has an eye for talent, and it’ll be down to his relationship with our new Jesus about when is the right time to lean on his knowledge specifically I would imagine.
Days of stockpiling a single position on the pitch each transfer window should be over though as Smith will pick and choose his moments on ‘his’ signings – I assume for reasons of sense and balance the aim will be two players per position and then our Under 23 group take priority as back-up. As some fans might say, how it should be.
At Brentford he certainly hasn’t been shy in blooding their young reserve side when they’ve made a case for being promoted and from what I can tell his idea of bringing through youth isn’t two appearances in the EFL Cup over two years. They seem to get a block of games as a substitute/starter and disappear for a bit (working on weaknesses identified?). Then they get another block of games and so on. The Cup looks like it’s the start of that process, but it continues in the league, so our Under 23 hopefuls shouldn’t be hanging their future on Cup involvement alone anymore.
But they have to earn the right and show enough when given a chance and then show improvement for another chance. Again some would say, how it should be.
A number of assumptions in the above obviously, but appointing Pitarch at the same time and calling Smith head coach, not the manager, this feels like a marked direction change so it’s all about the balance off the pitch as we search for a balance on the pitch.
If the characters can match and work well together, this has probably been a long time coming and making a switch with two people who have no relationship to begin with should make it easier to stick to whatever their roles are as defined by our owners, rather than old friendships coming into play and muddying the waters.
If it works, it should work well but will need to be given time and whilst promotion will be the aim, this isn’t about promotion or bust, this is about building towards promotion and then having a core and the foundations in place to survive and compete once we get up.
Many have long wanted such a setup, many hoped we’d get that under Steve Bruce but hindsight shows he was undercut as it became promotion or bust and there was no building, we just needed promotion to keep the lights on and eventually, that took its toll.
It’s not unfair to mention some valid concerns.
Smith isn’t a high profile appointment, there are also big questions about stepping up to Villa and expectations – let alone the media profile and scrutiny we get from the press.
It’s down to Smith to handle that and make the adjustment ultimately.
But this is also where fans have to acknowledge the change in setup and in some ways the media as well. It obviously comes down to results, but it comes down to losing the right way, having a go and trying to entertain as that always brings added time.
There’s pressure in all walks of life, if Smith didn’t think he could handle it he’d have shied away but they are valid concerns and he’s the only one who can address them.
Yes, he needs plenty of time and patience, as do the other two to get their feet under the desk and get their desires and wants across to people so we work as a more oiled machine, but contrary to the warped opinions of some in the press – we’re a pretty patient fanbase when we can see a plan – we turn, like all fans I guess really, when we see the manager himself is holding us back and no longer has excuses.
Bruce still had strong backing until he turned on the fans questioning our intellect – that was the end.
There were plenty of fans surprised to see Roberto Di Matteo pushed so quickly, even in spite of one win and a grander lack of a plan in play – fans today still argue he didn’t have enough time but the majority of fans hadn’t turned.
Sherwood, no plan but again majority of fans hadn’t turned, some were just waking up to his excuses.
Garde, massive support until he downed tools when the Board seemingly shafted him in the transfer window.
Lambert, massive support until the majority caught on to his own contradictions in excuses.
Everyone sees our lack of balance in the squad, we can’t do anything about that until January at best and even then our hands are tied without sales owing to Financial Fair Play, so is there a single fan out there who doesn’t think Pitrach and Smith can at best build an ethos, find a style of play but are mainly treading water until next summer?
On the basis of that, short of Smith selecting four goalkeepers for outfield positions, bringing Gabby Agbonlahor back to play in goal whilst sticking Alan Hutton on the left wing as we hurtle towards League One, it means the summer of 2020 before any real judgements can be made.
We’ll no doubt find plenty to gripe about on forums, social media and in the pub before then but valid gripes isn’t the fans turning, is it!