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Blogservations: Savour the moment – Dean Smith is onto something

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Blogservations: Savour the moment – Dean Smith is onto something

Five wins. Nineteen goals. Nine different scorers. Four clean sheets. Two sell-out Villa Park crowds. One of our own.

It couldn't have started much better, could it?

Okay, defeats at Norwich City and QPR early on suggest it could have, but you get the gist.

Aston Villa under Dean Smith, in the space of just two months, have undergone a radical transformation. They've evolved from a team who found the net three times on just three occasions in two months at the beginning of the campaign, to one who've scored at least that amount in each of their last four.

Everything has taken a significant step forward – physically, mentally and, most importantly, technically.

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Villa look comfortable in possession, pass and move with great assertion and look to attack with every phase. Everything they do has a purpose under Smith.
 
Running stats are higher. There's more hunger, more desire. Premier League managers bemoaning the lack of 'mad dogs' in their side would take great pleasure in watching the claret and blues at present.

Jonathan Kodjia, while always classy and committed, is a case in point.

Against Birmingham City, with Villa 4-2 up and the result sealed, the Ivorian sprinted back from high up the pitch, robbed the Blues of possession in midfield and began surging forward again. It epitomised what this side is now about.

The fact onlookers – even of a non-Aston Villa persuasion – were hardly surprised that we dispatched the best defensive team in the league 3-0 on their home patch last Saturday night is great credit to the work Smith, Richard O'Kelly, John Terry and Neil Cutler have installed in such a short space of time.

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In the stands it's changed, too.

Of course there was optimism as we navigated to the Play-Off Final last year. Of course we loved big wins over the likes of Blues and Wolves. Of course there was pride and resilience in adversity over the summer. But this is different.

If monitoring the sentiment over social media on a daily basis has taught any lessons, it's that the supporters are truly in love with Aston Villa again.

They love Smith. They love the playing squad. They love the philosophy and everything we stand for.

Put simply, they loving watching Villa again.

Even Smith's pre and post-match interviews continue to go down a treat two months in. His articulacy, honesty and thoroughness leave people wanting to hear more and more –  myself included.

Those qualities aren't just for the camera, either. No matter the time or place that you cross paths with Smith, you're always greeted with a firm handshake and conversation. He spreads the feel-good factor club wide.

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His principles are admirable. He's already proving a great coach, but is just as good a man.

He knows more than anyone what it means to be here. And with a playing squad made for a forward-thinking, attacking philosophy – the whole set-up just fits.

Now, too many similar comment pieces this early on in a tenure have opted to make bold statements and predictions. That I will avoid. But the progress on the football side of things these last few months only points to a move in the one direction. The right one.

Things feel good right now. There's an air of optimism on the pitch and in the stands. It's been a brilliant start. I, for one, can't wait to see how the story continues over Christmas and into 2019.

But for now, let's savour the moment. Aston Villa, in footballing terms, are everything we want them to be again.

Dan Connor
By @danconnor 4th December 2018