Dean Smith

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Villa’s Grealish thrilled to lead Premier League promotion

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Jack Grealish has been on a journey.

He probably wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

[ RECAP: Villa 2-1 Derby ]

The Aston Villa playmaker has been with his club since he was six, and that includes the side’s first ever relegation from the Premier League.

Transfer rumors have abounded since that time, but the 23-year-old held firm through three seasons in the second tier.

Now, following a 2-1 defeat of Derby County in the Championship Playoff Final, Villa is back in the top flight. From the BBC:

“I’m speechless. It was such a hard game, but when I look around and I’ve got John, Anwar, I believe. It means the world to go up, we know where this club belongs. I’ve stayed here and we’re back there now. I’ve led my boyhood team to the Premier League.”

Villa started firing on all cylinders under manager Dean Smith, who took the reins in October. The Villans sat 14th, but rose all the way to fifth.

“It feels very good,” Smith said. “To be honest, the lads are a terrific bunch. They take on different ideas, they deserve it. I believe pressure is what you put on yourself, we work hard every day, the only difference is expectation. We’ve got two owners have got a lot of money, and are in it for the long haul. The potential now is massive.”

Championship Focus: Aston Villa continues surge; Leeds win again

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Leeds United moved a bit closer to automatic promotion thanks to an MLS product-inspired win and Sheffield United’s slip-up against Millwall.

[ MORE: Man Utd 2-1 West Ham ]


Aston Villa 2-1 Bristol City

The Villans cooled off red-hot Bristol City and can feel pretty good about their playoff ambitions. Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham converted a penalty and Conor Hourihane also scored as Villa moved four points clear of sixth-placed Bristol City.

Villa has now won eight-straight league matches under Dean Smith, moving from 11th to fifth. The Villans were 15th when he took over for Steve Bruce in October.

Sheffield United 1-1 Millwall

The Blades couldn’t keep up, mostly because couldn’t nurse a 1-0 lead thanks to an 85th minute red card and stoppage time finish from Jake Cooper.

Leeds United 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Wake Forest and New York City FC product Jack Harrison scored a 65th minute goal that stood up as Leeds took a three-point lead on the third place Blades.

Jack Harrison of Leeds United (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion 4-1 Preston North End

A Dwight Gayle hat trick joined Jay Rodriguez on the scoresheet as the Baggies built a 4-0 lead before conceding in stoppage time. West Brom is nine points clear of 7th and looks certain to partake in the playoffs.

Elsewhere
Derby County 4-0 Bolton
Middlesbrough 1-0 Hull City
Nottingham Forest 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
QPR 4-0 Swansea City
Reading 2-1 Brentford
Stoke City 2-2 Rotherham United
Ipswich Town 1-1 Birmingham City
Wigan Athletic v. Norwich City — 7 a.m. ET Sunday

Aston Villa hires Smith, names Terry assistant

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Aston Villa has found its replacement for Steve Bruce, and he’s added a notable alumnus to his staff.

Dean Smith is the club’s new head coach, and he’s tabbed Chelsea legend and recent Villa center back John Terry as assistant coach. Jesus Garcia Pitarch has been named sporting director, having held similar positions at Atletico Madrid and Valencia.

[ MORE: 1 year on from USMNT’s dark day ] 

Villa’s press release notes that Smith is a lifelong fan of the club, and his resume features stops at Walsall and Brentford.

Terry had been rumored for moves to multiple clubs in continuing his playing career, but instead takes his first steps in management.

“John is one of the most decorated players in English football, has an affinity with the club and is ready to make the next step in his career working alongside Dean,” said CEO Christian Purslow.

Villa is 3W-6D-3L to start the Championship campaign, four points back of the final playoff spot.

As an odd aside, Smith’s son is a standout player at NCAA D-II side Limestone. He sounds pretty excited, as you’d expect.