Dean Smith: Aston Villa safety ‘feels better than going up’

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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has an incredibly challenging couple of years, on and off the field.

A surprise hire from Brentford after Villa fired Steve Bruce in 2018, Smith led his childhood club to the Premier League last season.

Villa sat 11th after nine weeks of their first season back in the PL but took just two points from 10 matches between Feb. 1 and July 9. That stretch also included the coronavirus pause, which saw his father die of COVID-19 in late May.

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His father, Ron Smith, was a steward at Villa Park.

“I was brought up a Villa fan,” he said. “It is a proud moment and feels better than going up last season. It was a big change we had to make at the football club. We had to build a new team, a new squad. We used the pandemic to the best. I lost my father through that period and there was a lot of disappointment, but we knew we had to work hard.”

Villa took eight of the last 12 points available to gain another season of Premier League football.

Smith saw his guidance of the club questioned during the downtimes and had to answer plenty of questions about the status of club star Jack Grealish, who has been a transfer rumor mill mainstay for years.

So, of course, Smith was asked Sunday if he expected to see Grealish at Villa Park next season.

He replied with humor.

“I expect Jack Grealish to get drunk with me tonight… that’s all I can say. I will speak to the owners tomorrow.”

As for Smith’s standing with the players, it seems solid. Villa’s Irish mainstay Conor Hourihane has been with the club since 2017 and hopes for more with Smith next season.

“Dean’s been fantastic hasn’t he? Got us promoted last year and the job this year was to stay up and get us some momentum,” Hourihane said via the BBC. “Hopefully we can build on this and take it into next year. People wrote us off three or four weeks ago and we’ve come up trumps.”