Lifelong Aston Villa supporter Dean Smith was appointed the club’s head coach in October 2018 and secured promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs seven months later.
Born in the Midlands, Smith enjoyed a 16-year playing career as a centre-back with Walsall, Hereford United, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale.
He hung up his boots in the winter of 2004/05 and took up a position as Orient’s youth team coach, before becoming the first team’s assistant manager later that season.
He stayed in that role until January 2009, when he departed alongside manager Martin Ling. Six months later he was appointed head of youth at another of his former clubs, Walsall.
Smith’s big break came in January 2011 when he was given the manager’s job until the end of the season. He took over a side lying bottom of League One, eight points from safety, but masterminded a great escape.
In 2012/13 his team finished six points outside the playoffs, and in March 2015 he took the club to Wembley for the first time in their 127-year history as they contested the EFL Trophy final.
Walsall were fourth in the table when Smith was recruited by Championship side Brentford in November 2015. He went on to secure two ninth-place finishes either side of a 10th-place finish in his three years in charge of the Bees.
On 10 October 2018 a 47-year-old Smith was named head coach of Aston Villa, where he had cleaned the steps of the Holte End while his father was working as a steward.
Villa were 15th in the Championship at the time but Smith oversaw a 10-match winning run between 2 March and 22 April 2019, breaking a 109-year-old club record and grabbing a place in the playoffs.
He led his side to victory over Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals, following a penalty shootout, and a 2-1 win over Derby County in the Wembley final secured Villa’s Premier League return after a three-year absence.