THROWBACK: Dean Smith excited for emotional return to former club
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is looking forward to an “emotional” reunion with former club Brentford on Saturday.
The 50-year-old spent nearly three years in charge of the Bees before leaving in October 2018 to replace Steve Bruce at his boyhood club Villa.
Smith was succeeded at Brentford by his assistant Thomas Frank, who last season got the club promoted to the Premier League for the first time.
Ahead of the game at Villa Park, Smith said: “It will be emotional because it is a fantastic club with really good people and I really enjoyed my time there.
“Their progress is there for all to see over the last seven or eight years – from when they were in League One.
“Under the ownership of Matthew Benham, it’s been nothing but remarkable – the signings that they’ve made, the transfer policy that they’ve put in place and their progression now to becoming a Premier League club with a fantastic new stadium.
“A lot of credit goes to the owner Matthew Benham but there are a lot of people who have worked very hard behind the scenes to get where they are now.
“I was certainly cheering them on to get into the Premier League and I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against my old assistant, Thomas Frank.”
Smith brought Frank to Brentford a year into his spell in charge of the Bees, when the former Brondby boss was relatively unknown in England.
“What I liked was he had loads of enthusiasm and was exuberant around the training ground – he loves the game” said Smith.
“He has personality and character but on top of that his tactical knowledge and coaching ability is fantastic. It is no surprise to me that he has done as well as he has.
“He had a tough start when he first took over, winning just one of his first 10 matches I think it was, but he has always believed in what he was doing. He is a football man and understands the game.
“I’m really excited to see him, and all the other people there, but we need to do the business because they have started really well and look really hard to beat.”
Smith will hope to have Ollie Watkins available for the first time this season – with the striker also looking to face his former club.
Watkins, who moved to Villa Park from the Bees in a club-record deal in September 2020, has been managing a bruised knee and has yet to feature during the 2021/22 campaign.
Saturday’s game looks like it will come too soon for Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore (both hamstring), while Keinan Davis and Morgan Sanson (knee) remain out.
Meanwhile, Wesley might be left out of the squad, with the Brazilian striker set for a loan move in the coming days.
Watch the channel on TV