Speaking during his first appearance as the manager of Norwich City, Dean Smith made clear that there was only one issue he wanted off the table: the events of his city break to New York last week.
“I can’t say too much about New York, I’m afraid!” he beamed, with the glint of a man who really wanted you to know he had some stories to tell, if only he could. Smith had been in the Big Apple with his wife to see their son and, while he was there, mull over the prospect of taking the Canaries job. What precisely had he got up to? “A cycle round Central Park, trip to the Empire State Building, ferry to Staten Island; ええと, typical tourist stuff.” Another big grin.
In the space of nine days Smith had been sacked by the club he has supported all his life, whom he had just given the best years in their recent history, only to then become the man chosen by the league’s bottom team as someone who “shares our values” and can not only keep them in the division but help them kick on. Chuck in the ferry ride and it’s quite the whirlwind.
As Smith spoke about his time at Aston Villa, his processes in moving on and his ambitions at his new club, it was clear he was not about to get emotional. The abiding mood was that of calm. The big smile was probably deliberate, to get everyone relaxed, the same for a gag about what he’s like at home when out of work: “I’ve got a little bit of OCD in me so I’m in the fridge making sure the ham is not out of date.”
There was not a note of panic over the prospects for a Norwich side six points from safety. “If I thought [the job] was a risk wouldn’t have taken it,スミスは言った. “My job is to keep us in league this season and I firmly believe that’s what we can do. The fact is we’re only 11 games in and have 27 games left. はい, it hasn’t been the greatest of starts, hence why I’m sat here, but if you look at the teams who we had to play early on, it was tough. ザ・ win against Brentford was a big thing for the players. It should give them confidence to go on now. It’s a good squad that’s probably been underperforming and our job is to get performances.”
スミス, who watched a number of Norwich games during his transatlantic flights, said it had not been a hard decision to come to East Anglia, nor to get over the separation with the club he so closely identifies with. “In my 30 years in football only three have been with Villa," 彼は言った. “I know how to disconnect from each club and go full and wholeheartedly into each new project.
“I’ve said right from the start I’m a big boy and I can handle it. The hardest part is telling the people who are closest to you. But by Monday you have to move on. That’s life. I was brought up in a family with values of: ‘You have to cope.’ So we coped and moved on and thankfully Stuart got in touch and we met up on Tuesday.
“I’ve always felt Norwich was a well-run football club. From the outside, coming here, they had passionate supporters, the club was very supportive towards the management team but you also have a team that plays exciting football, plays through the thirds. So from the outside I’ve always been impressed.”
From Norwich’s point of view, you could see why Smith fits the bill. Although Frank Lampard was in consideration, the sporting director, Stuart Webber, had sought out Smith as soon as he knew of the Villa sacking. Smith has the pedigree they need; his experience will be valued more broadly too.
Questions of how Billy Gilmour and Todd Cantwell may fit back into the team are for another day. “Both have a huge role to play,” said Smith, “as do the entire squad.” The first item on the agenda, Smith says, is to tighten up the defence.
“We want to make defensive organisation and structure stronger," 彼は言った. “I think there’s enough quality … We won’t go away from the type of football that the club has been known for, but fans should expect to see an organised hard-working team who won’t leave anything out on the pitch. Hopefully they can enjoy some good performances.”