Dean Smith interview: Aston Villa manager reveals the inventive ways he'll create a team of leaders in John Terry's mould

The boyhood Villa fan has landed his dream job and wants the players to match the passion on the terraces.

Smith will also tell EVERY member of the squad to stand up and be counted.

The former Walsall, Hereford, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale centre-back sat down with SunSport to give an insight into his managerial techniques.

Smith, who quit Brentford on Wednesday night to take over at Villa Park, explained how he prefers to have a team of skippers, which he rotates each week, rather than one.

He said: “I was captain at every club I played for. I didn’t start at each team as a captain, I grew into the role.


“But I wasn’t any different as a captain than when I first went into the team.

“So it got me thinking, as a manager you go through your captain all the time — but by doing that you’re missing other people who could have leadership qualities.

“The modern world is more about collective leadership and leadership groups.

“Look at rugby. They take a lot of collective responsibility — the forward pack, the backs, the lineouts, the calls.

“I want everybody involved, otherwise you’re just creating followers rather than leaders.”

With Chelsea ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ John Terry on board as his No 2, Smith certainly has one of football’s greatest leaders on his coaching staff to set an example.

But the idea of having a team of skippers was something he introduced at the Bees this season.


He said: “The ones who had been captain enjoyed the responsibility.

“It got them talking more about leadership and what it means to them and what responsibilities they must take on board.”

Smith believes footballers improve more in an educational environment.

For example, he renamed the Analysis Room at Brentford, where post-match debriefs were held, as The Learning Zone.

He said: “Everyone, myself included, is still learning.

“I tell players, ‘There you go, it’s your debrief’. I get them to do it.

“It gives them the opportunity to discuss the game.

“It’s interesting to see how they think the game turned out in their eyes. Also, it takes them out of their comfort zones, as it’s always hard to talk in front of your peers.

“It’s something that’s getting better through the education system — but not so well in the football industry.

“When I went to school, teachers told us what to do. Now they ask more questions and my idea is to guide footballers but never stop them being innovative themselves.

“I want them asking me questions because there’s nothing worse than telling them to do something and they go out and think, ‘Why does he want me do that?’”

Smith, conscious he is in charge of mainly young men, is big on teaching them “real-life skills” in this digital-dominated world.

Speaking before his appointment, he said: “When I went to Walsall as head of youth I had a group of under-18s and the first thing I taught them was how to make a cup of tea and change a car tyre.

“The lads were asking ‘why?’. I told them, ‘I’m taking your excuses away from you. You know how to make a cuppa when a staff member wants one, you know if you have a flat tyre you’ll still be on time for training because you know how to change it!’

“And I believe as a manager it’s my role to make the players better as footballers but also as people.

“At Brentford, I got my players doing community visits and vocational stuff too.”

In west London, Smith spent nothing like what Villa have splashed on players and wages.

So if the Midlanders fail to go up this season, they will need to cut their cloth to meet Financial Fair Play rules.

But Smith, 47, said: “I’ve never been a believer in budgets, otherwise you may as well give up. You have to find another way to compete.

“You have to be on top of your game in recruitment and sign potential. When I sign a player, it’s all about attitude.

“They’ve got to be talented — but talent is just one thing. They must have a great attitude.

“I signed James Tarkowski from Oldham and he’s gone on to play for England. Chris Mepham came through the youth ranks and is now playing for Wales.

“There are gems to find without breaking the bank.

“What I loved at Brentford was every day I walked into the training ground, every single person — whether it be a player, staff member, owner or board member — wanted to get better.”

That is certainly what he is going to need at Villa.

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