SCulminating in his first appearance as Norwich City manager, Dean Smith made it clear that there was only one problem he didn’t want: the events of his time in New York last week.
“I can’t say too much about New York, I’m afraid! He beamed, with the brilliance of a man who really wanted you to know he had stories to tell, if only he could. Smith had gone to the Big Apple with his wife to see their son and, while there, was considering the prospect of taking the Canary Islands job. What exactly had he done? “A bike tour of Central Park, an excursion to the Empire State Building, a ferry to Staten Island; you know, typical tourist stuff. Another big smile.
Within nine days, Smith had been sacked by the club he had supported all his life, to whom he had just given the best years in their recent history, only to go on to become the man chosen by the final team of the league as someone who “shares our values” and can not only keep them in the division, but help them get started. Chuck in the ferry and it’s quite the hustle and bustle.
As Smith spoke about his time at Aston Villa, his evolutionary processes and his ambitions at his new club, it was clear he wasn’t about to get emotional. Calm was the constant mood. The big smile was undoubtedly voluntary, to relax everyone, ditto for a gag on what he does at home when he is out of work: “I have a little OCD in me so I’m in the fridge. making sure the ham is not expired.
There was not a note of panic about the prospects for a Norwich side six points from safety. “If I thought [the job] was a risk he wouldn’t have taken, ”Smith said. “My job is to keep us in the league this season and I firmly believe that’s what we can do.
“The point is, we only have 11 games and we have 27 games left. Yes it hasn’t been the best of starts which is why I’m sitting here but if you look at the teams we had to play with early on it was tough. The win over Brentford was a big thing for the players. It should give them confidence to continue now. It’s a good team that has probably been underperforming and our job is to get performance. ”
Smith, who has watched a number of Norwich games on his transatlantic flights, said it had not been a difficult decision to come to East Anglia, nor to overcome the separation with the club he identifies with so closely. “In my 30 years of football, only three have been with Villa,” he said. “I know how to disconnect from each club and launch myself fully and wholeheartedly into each new project.
“I said from the start that I was a big boy and that I could take it. The hard part is telling the people closest to you. But by Monday, you have to move on. That’s life. I grew up in a family with the following values: “You have to get by”. So we faced and moved on and luckily Stuart [Webber, Norwich’s sporting director] made contact and we met on Tuesday. I’ve always thought of Norwich to be a well-run football club. From the outside, coming here, they had passionate supporters, the club was very supportive of the management team but you also have a team that plays exciting football, plays up to the thirds. So from the outside I’ve always been impressed.
From Norwich’s perspective, you can see why Smith does the trick. Although Frank Lampard had been considered, Webber had looked for Smith as soon as he learned of Villa’s sacking. Smith has the pedigree they need; its experience will also be more widely valued.
Questions about how Billy Gilmour and Todd Cantwell might get back on the team are for another day. “Both have a huge role to play,” said Smith, “as does the entire team. The first order of business, according to Smith, is to strengthen the defense.
“We want to strengthen the defensive organization and structure,” he said. “I think there is enough quality… We will not give up the type of football the club are known for, but fans should expect to see an organized and hardworking team that will leave nothing behind. ground. I hope they can enjoy a good performance.