Dean Smith best bits: A look back at some of the more memorable moments of Smith’s Aston Villa tenure
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Dean Smith’s tenure at Villa Park came to a sorry end following five successive Premier League defeats.
But that rotten run which ultimately led to his departure was just one of very few down moments the club endured during his three years in charge.
He took over a team that were floating around in the bottom half of the Championship and solidified them into a real solid Premier League side.
Smith was able to take a side that were devoid of ideas and had seemingly lost their identity - gave them the kiss of life and turned them into a club to be proud of once more.
Promotions, cup finals and a few comical jibes at referees along the way - his tenure will be remembered with fondness by most and rightly so.
Here are just a few of Smith’s best bits.
“I thought they had juggling balls for Christmas.”
A true Premier League classic delivered by the man himself.
During the match with Manchester City in the 20/21 campaign, City scored their opening goal after Rodri tackled Tyrone Mings and played the ball through for Bernardo Silva to slot home.
The problem with said goal was that Rodri made the challenge on Mings after travelling back from an offside position - around 10 yards offside at that.
City went onto win the game 2-0 but this moment proved decisive.
It was a result that affected little in the grand scheme of things but it did provide us with this memorable moment, at least.
Here’s Smith, claiming the fourth official must have had juggling balls for Christmas following his decision not to look at the VAR screen.
Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool
What. A. Game.
Not just a classic for Villa and Dean Smith but a classic for the footballing world.
To completely dismantle the then Champions of England in that fashion at Villa Park will forever go down as one of the craziest results ever.
It was a statement from Villa and showed just how far they had come from the previous season. A clear mark of improvement and a result that will live long in the memory.
The fact no fans were in attendance due to the pandemic will forever be a sickener, though.
10 in a row
During the club’s promotion season in 2018/19 - Smith guided Villa on a remarkable 10 game winning streak.
It was the first time in their history they had achieved such a feat, surpassing a record that was previously set in 1910.
This run essentially took Villa from where they were when Smith took over - languishing in mid-table - to the play-offs - and that’s where they remained until the end of the campaign.
And, well, we know what happened next.
The great escape
There were occasions during the 19/20 campaign where Villa looked doomed. They looked destined to drop straight back to the division they had fought so hard to get out of.
Following the restart of the campaign following the break due to the pandemic, the claret & blue were really struggling.
With four games to play they found themselves four points from safety but Smith and the team stepped up.
Refusing to accept defeat, they picked up eight points from the final 12 including a huge 1-0 win over Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season.
The final four matches were used as a stepping stone for the following season and the board’s faith in Smith was repaid when he led them to an 11th placed finish in 20/21.
Dream come true
Two boyhood Villa fans arm-in-arm. Captain. Gaffer. Celebrating promotion at Wembley.
Whatever opinion you have gone on to form about Jack Grealish since his departure - this was a moment for the ages.
A moment that you’ll struggle to not smile at. Unless you’re a Blue, I guess.
But ultimately, they both achieved what they had set out to do. Get this great club back to the Premier League.
The man lived the dream of most football fans. He led his club back to the promised land and for that, Villa fans everywhere will be eternally grateful.
Old Trafford hoodoo broken
One last memorable moment ironically came in Smith’s last victory as manager of Aston Villa.
He led Villa to their first win at Old Trafford for 12 years.
On a day where his family watched on from the stands, Villa outplayed United from minute one and got a thoroughly deserved three points. The final three points he would ever register as Head Coach.
Fans serenaded him with “Deano, Deano, Deano” at the final whistle to which he duly responded by punching the air in front of them.
He also looked up to his family in the stands with an emotional expression on his face as he exited the pitch. It was the perfect send off and the perfect final moment to sum up his tenure at Villa Park.