In Dean Smith and Jack Grealish, Aston Villa have a manager and captain who have supported the club for as long as they have followed football. Grealish has long been their most inspirational figure, but in Smith they have a progressive manager, and one who has brought them a sense of stability absent since the days of Martin O’Neill.
Smith not only led Villa to an unlikely promotion from the Championship during his first season, he oversaw their successful battle against relegation and the progress that since then has made them one of the Premier League’s most improving teams. He has also done so by gambling in the transfer market, and creating a promising system in which the influential Grealish can consistently thrive. “They’re playing like a real team,” said the retired Paul McGrath, once so important to Villa in central defence. “I love this high pressure football. Dean, continue the dream.”