Dean Smith: Aston Villa sack manager after three years in charge

Dean Smith

Aston Villa have sacked manager Dean Smith after three years in charge.

Smith, 50, leaves following Villa’s 1-0 defeat by Southampton on Friday, the club’s fifth successive defeat in the Premier League.

Villa are 17th in the league, two points above the relegation zone.

“This year we have not seen the continuous improvement in results, performances and league position which we have all been looking for,” Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said.

“For this reason we have decided to make a change now to allow time for a new head coach to make an impact.”

Villa say the process to replace Smith has started but they will not rush into an immediate appointment – however, it is understood that Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand is a name of interest to the club and is admired by fellow countryman, Villa’s sporting director Johan Lange.

Hjulmand guided Denmark to the Euro 2020 semi-final, when they lost to England at Wembley, and the 49-year-old has a growing reputation.

Other names are also under consideration, with Villa using the time afforded to them by the international break to home in on Smith’s successor.

Smith becomes fifth Premier League manager to lose job

Smith was appointed Villa manager in October 2018, guiding them to promotion from the Championship in his first season in charge.

Though they struggled in their first season in the top flight, narrowly avoiding relegation, Smith led the club to the 2019-20 Carabao Cup final.

The 2020-21 season saw Villa achieve an 11th-place finish in the Premier League, but after the departure of star player Jack Grealish to Manchester City in the summer, results started to slip.

The club have not won since they defeated Manchester United on 25 September, picking up just 10 points from the first 11 games of the season.

It is their worst losing run since January to February 2017 in the Championship.

Smith leaves the club having won 28 of his 87 Premier League games in charge (32.2%) and with an overall win rate of 39.6% from his 139 games.

Smith is the fifth managerial change in the top flight this season with Tottenham sacking Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday and Norwich dismissing Daniel Farke late on Saturday.

Watford sacked Xisco Munoz in October, while Steve Bruce left his role as Newcastle manager by mutual consent on 20 October.

There were just four managerial changes in the whole of last season.

“The board would like to sincerely thank Dean for his many excellent achievements, on and off the pitch, during this time,” added Purslow.

“Everyone knows how much Aston Villa means to Dean and his family. He has represented the club with distinction and dignity – universally liked and respected by everybody associated with Aston Villa.”

Grealish tweeted: “No-one will ever compare, the real goat (greatest of all time).”

Analysis

BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty

Dean Smith can leave Aston Villa with his head held high after taking his boyhood club back into the Premier League and establishing them there but growing expectations, big ambitions and five straight defeats brought his reign to an end.

Villa sold talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £100m but the money was reinvested in club record signing Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City, as well as Danny Ings and Leon Bailey from Southampton and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

Grealish was always going to be missed but Villa’s hierarchy were hoping the new faces would allow them to build on last season’s 11th place.

He has had bad luck with injuries to players like Ings and Bailey but the 1-0 win at Manchester United proved to be a false dawn and Villa decided it was time for action after the defeat at Southampton.

It will be a desperate personal blow to Smith, with the 50-year-old fulfilling a dream when he left Brentford for Villa Park in 2015.

Smith is a popular figure, regarded as one of their own by Villa fans, and there will be real disappointment that this decision has been taken but club owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens are fiercely ambitious and believe they should be at least challenging for European places.

And there is unlikely to be a shortage of interest in Smith’s services once he has taken stock and recovered from this sacking as so much of his work at Villa Park has been admirable.

Reaction – ‘International break is a killer for managers’

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports: “Villa must have looked at someone and thought they can do better. Smith hasn’t done a bad job. In the past, if you go on long runs without a win it is usually double what Villa are on now. The international break is a killer for managers.”

Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Villa’s standards have gotten higher. Losing five games in a row, they’re sinking like a stone and that shouldn’t be happening for a team that was aiming as high as they were, so I get it.

“This is the last chance before the international break and that gives them two weeks to appoint someone new; the time wouldn’t be right later in the season.

“Smith has taken them so far, so it’s a shame, but as far as results go they haven’t been good enough.”

Ex-Manchester City midfielder Michael Brown on BBC Radio 5 Live: “When Dean Smith said at the start of the season that he expected a top-10 finish, that put the pressure on him.

“It’s a real disappointment for me. That shows the level we’re at in the Premier League; at the bottom of that table it’s getting a little bit too tight.”

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