They’ve only gone and done it. After just 123 days in charge at Aston Villa, Roberto di Matteo has been shown the door. With Brentford boss Dean Smith one of those at the top of supporters’ and bookmakers’ lists as a favourite for the role, could he have taken charge at Griffin Park for the last time? Or is somebody else destined for what is less a hot seat and more an electric chair?
To even be discussing this now smacks of madness anyway. Nobody can deny that Aston Villa were one of the teams at the start of the 80s. Thirty-five years ago. But that was then and this is now. To put it into context, Roberto di Matteo was just starting primary school when they lifted the European cup.
Yet despite his pedigree of having already taken West Brom up from the Championship aswell as the not inconsiderable tasks of bringing the FA Cup and European cup to the Chelsea trophy cabinet, this wasn’t deemed good enough for the long term. Doctor Tony Xia, who always puts me in mind of a low budget Bond villain, has eliminated his manager and now starts the hunt for a new one. But who?
Steve Bruce is the bookies favourite. Currently without a club having taken Hull City back into the Premier League, he is both available and has form at this level. But could the Birmingham City factor play a part here. Especially if things don’t go so well?
The football on offer over the last 15 months hasn’t been great and so he’d face a huge challenge in having to make an immediate impact.
Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner is the current darling of the Championship. There is no baggage with him and nothing but positivity as The Terriers have defied the pundits to storm it to the top of the table. If there is anything negative to be said it is that the headlines about Wagner always make me think of the one decent act ever to emerge from TV’s X-Factor.
Yet why would Wagner leave? Unless, of course, he was voted out. Here is a chance to achieve something special with Huddersfield Town. A well settled team, playing strong football, are already knocking on the door of the top flight. They have loyal support and a great stadium. It would be a huge risk for him to jump ship so soon. One there is currently no need to take.
And so it comes back to Brentford and Dean Smith. A man whose family are Villa fans and who has seen the Bees get off to their best start since our return to the Championship. A man whose run at the end of last season saw us fall just short of the play-off zone.
Yet like Wagner, why would he want to leave a team on the up and so soon into his Griffin Park career? Dean has been here less than a year whilst also endured his own mini crisis at the start of 2016. A woeful run saw us, by his own admission, in a relegation battle. Matthew Benham kept very public faith in his man and it has been well rewarded. Would Dr. Xia have done the same?
For all the jibes that Brentford have endured on social media, our man is going nowhere. And you can quote me on that.
Instead, you have to look further down the list to the likes of Steve Clarke or even Sam Allardyce for the likely candidates. Yet the media circus that Sam would bring has surely ruled him out of any job (this month)? At a time when the club needs some stability he’s the last man to approach.
The trouble would seem to be expectation levels. With Brentford being, undeniably, a small club – albeit one on the up – we’ve seen this all before. Leeds United have been huge on the tinpot cracks since our paths have crossed whilst Wolves were hurling the abuse about their status relative to ours when that fixture returned to the calendar back in League One days. Now you can add Villa to the list.
But just as balls in the back of the net are the only stat that counts, having once lifted a cup or two in the last century doesn’t give you a divine right to ‘be any good’ now. Frankly, Dean Smith has no need to run away and join the circus. Even if he is asked.
Aston Villa have, without doubt, a wonderful heritage and a magnificent stadium. Yet with patience a commodity in short supply at Villa Park, and the twiterrati having ideas well above their recent form, good luck to whomever gets the role.