After three years and 138 games in charge, Aston Villa have sacked Dean Smith.
The Villans have endured a torrid start to the season, picking up just 10 points in the Premier League to sit 16th in the table, two points above the relegation places. And, of course, they’ve already bombed out of the EFL Cup. Their recent run of five consecutive defeats proved to be the final straw that led to Smith being relieved of his duties.
“This year we have not seen the continuous improvement in results, performances and league position which we have all been looking for,” Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow said in the club statement.
This now leaves Villa in a position where they would ideally like to appoint a new coach sooner rather than later, giving them as much of the international break as possible to get settled in before returning to action at home against Brighton on November 20.
Dream: Steven Gerrard (6/5)
This is going to happen any time a mid-to-large sized managerial vacancy comes up in England over the next few years. Steven Gerrard is almost certainly one of the best players to never win the Premier League and is a legend in English football, so much so that even if he was a distinctly average manager, he’d get big opportunities off star power alone.
However, it turns out he might actually be a rather good manager. After one season in charge of Liverpool U18s, Gerrard moved north to take over Rangers and since then he has returned to them a degree of prominence. Yes, results in Europe have been spotty but they’ve produced some iconic moments and, hell, they are in Europe which alone is an achievement.
And then, while there have been none of the domestic Trebles that Brendan Rodgers enjoyed at Celtic, Gerrard had Rangers power to their first Premiership in a decade. What’s more, they did so without losing a single game and even more impressively, winning so much (32 times) that his team racked up a whopping 102 points. He’s absolutely the real deal.
Dream: John Terry (7/1)
This one is pure narrative. Having spent a one-season stint there as a player, Terry joined the Aston Villa backroom staff of Dean Smith just three days after retiring as a player. Terry was Smith’s assistant as Villa got promoted to the Premier League, survived and then had their breakout season in 2020/21. He left the club in the summer, citing a desire to visit clubs around Europe and “develop my aim and objective of becoming a manager.” Well, where better for Terry to take up arms for the first time than the club which gave him a chance in coaching?
Squawka Suggests: Steven Gerrard
Come on, this is a no brainer. Terry obviously has more of a connection to Aston Villa but both men would drop the Midlands club like a bad habit if their boyhood clubs (Liverpool and Chelsea) came calling so that can’t really be much of an argument. We’ve not seen Terry manage anyone, good or bad, where Gerrard has proven not only that he can improve a team to play good football but that he can win silverware. If the choice comes down to either of these dream dudes then Aston Villa must absolutely, positively pick Steven Gerrard.
Realistic: Paulo Fonseca (8/1)
Paulo Fonseca is a quality coach who won three consecutive domestic Doubles with Shakhtar Donetsk during his three seasons in charge there. He then had a good spell as Roma boss, including a fifth-placed finish and a Europa League semi-final, before he was sacked in the summer. Fonseca was linked to the vacant Spurs job, but is still available after Antonio Conte took that job and could represent a very savvy and safe appointment for Villa.
Realistic: Frank Lampard (10/1)
Frank Lampard was alright at Derby County thanks mainly to the performance of Chelsea loanees like Mason Mount. Then he took over at Chelsea where he was alright in his first season thanks mostly to Chelsea youngsters like… Mason Mount. Anyway, Lampard was horrible in his second season at the Bridge having to deal with temperamental superstars that he didn’t want because they weren’t as hard-working as Mason Mount.
Now, the Aston Villa squad has a lot of talent in it and although there’s no chance he’ll get Mason Mount on loan again, he is available and unlike John Terry has actually been a manager before, plus he would certainly generate a lot of positive media coverage of Villa.
Squawka Suggests: Paulo Fonseca
As much as Frank Lampard is a media darling, when it comes to the realistic options for Villa there can be no better choice than Paulo Fonseca. Not only is the Portuguese coach available but with the exception of his second season at Pacos de Ferreira he’s achieved a 50% win rate or higher at every job he’s had since 2012. Lampard would bring better PR, but Fonseca would actually help Villa progress on the pitch.
Wildcard: Kasper Hjulmand (10/1)
At Euro 2020 Denmark shocked everyone by reaching the semi-finals where they narrowly lost to England after extra-time. In doing so the Danes defied every expectation, impressing in particular as their star man Christian Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest in their opening game.
Denmark were such good fun to watch, roaring up the field on the counter-attack. As such it shouldn’t be a surprise he’s being linked with managerial vacancies like Villa. After all, a 70% win rate with a nation like Denmark is absolutely nothing to sniff at and if he could bring that dynamism to Villa Park, would people be upset?
Well, this has to be a wildcard option because signing a manager whose only experience of coaching in Europe’s top five leagues is a 24-game spell with Mainz in 2014/15 where he won just five times and was sacked in the middle of February is a risk. Villa fans are already voicing their concern that Hjulmand is being linked due to said inexperience, and so you can’t go all in on the Dane even if it makes a lot of sense.