David Hannant: How I'm already warming to Dean Smith

Brentford manager Dean Smith

Warming to the task - Dean Smith during his days in charge at Brentford - Credit: PA

Don't you just hate these lazy international breaks?

They seem to happen more and more often and are just tiresome. Two whole weeks without Norwich City games and little to talk about, just so Harry Kane can pad his England goalscoring stats by slamming hat-tricks past postmen and brickies? 

And consequently, whenever I have a column to write in the middle of them, it's always a little bit of a struggle to think of just what to write about.

So here we are, for the third time already this season, coming back from another sleepy international break, with very little to discuss...

Generally, as soon as the final whistle blows on the last City game before one, I just switch off to all things football, so waning is my interest in national team affairs outside of tournaments. Did I miss anything?

Of course, I'm sure you've figured out how firmly my tongue is lodged into my cheek here, but wouldn't it just be fascinating for anybody who did totally disengage with all things Norwich City at 5pm on Saturday, November 6?

In the aftermath of Daniel Farke's sacking, I penned a bonus column for these pages paying tribute to the German's contributions, which clearly none of us will ever forget. But now is the time to look forward and embrace the new era.

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Initially, I'll be the first to admit that when Dean Smith's name was first linked to the City job, I wasn't overly enthused.

I feel that perhaps I've become a bit over-invested in the idea of Norwich doing things differently, plucking Daniel Farke style diamonds from the rough and doing the unexpected, left field.

For that reason, I confess that I'd fully bought into the idea of a Kjetil Knutsen-type appointment when his name came up, whether or not there was ever any actual interest on City's part. 

So as a side effect of that, after his Villa exit, I shamefully had Dean Smith down in my head as being a little white bread, one of the "usual suspects" that will be perennially linked with clubs looking to rejuvenate a relegation battle. You know the types: Big Sam, Alan Pardew and the like.

But once it became apparent that the former Brentford man was indeed going to be the man to take over from Daniel Farke, I delved a bit deeper into what he offers and have come away with a far more optimistic take.

One of my approaches was to pop his name into YouTube and the very first thing I clicked on really grabbed me.

It wasn't anything particularly earth-shattering, but it still piqued my interest: a two-and-a-half minute video of Dean Smith explaining how he sets up teams to play out from the back.

It was a really interesting, behind-the-scenes type clip where he went through how he instils the philosophy in the team.

It began with him having a team do quick passing from the back without pressure, to see how they expressed themselves, before gradually adding opposition players into the mix. I found it fascinating.

But this was just the start of the Dean Smith-shaped rabbit hole I went down, immersing myself in analysis pieces, videos and views of fans of clubs he's previously been in charge of. And near enough everything I came across was positive.

What in my head, to begin with, didn't seem like a Stuart Webber appointment at all, suddenly made sense.

It does still feel like a slight departure, but equally, perhaps that was a deliberate thing - an acknowledgement that to stay in the Premier League we need to do things differently, even if only slightly.

Some of the main sceptics of Smith's appointment have pointed out the wretched end to his tenure at Villa Park - five defeats on the bounce.

However, is it possible that perhaps his time at Villa was naturally running its course in the same way Farke's was at Norwich?

History will rightly remember Daniel Farke as having done a terrific job at Carrow Road, despite the way his time ended - and likewise, few question whether Dean Smith did a good job at Villa. He certainly left the club in a better position than the one he picked it up in.

Some would probably argue he was hard-done-by to be sacked when he was, even with that poor run of form. 

One sacking does not automatically make somebody unfit to manage again, heck, even Sir Alex Ferguson was sacked once.

Clearly, Dean Smith's Villa sacking would have hurt - being in charge of his boyhood club after all. But the fact he feels ready to jump straight back on the horse eight days after losing the position he coveted so much is a massive testament to the type of man we have on our hands.

As I have seen pointed out many times, every club Dean Smith has managed has improved and progressed - if he does that here it is mission accomplished.

So after being sceptical to begin with, I am now fully ready to get behind our new man and have high hopes for the future. Bring on the Dean Smith era.

Who will be Smith's golden boy?

Milot Rashica of Norwich applauds the traveling support at the end of the Premier League match at th

Milot Rashica may not be permitted to represent Kosovo during the upcoming international break. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

All managers appear to have certain players they favour above others, the one they most want beside them in battle.

Daniel Farke clearly had certain players he would trust with his life, players like Kenny McLean, who he always spoke immensely well of and who he always relied upon.

I'm fascinated to see who Dean Smith will see as his ace in the hole and put his most faith in.

One player I could see really starting to flourish under Smith is Milot Rashica, who City's new boss is a known fan.

It's well publicised that he attempted to coax the Kosovan to Villa Park last season. Now he has the chance to work with him, I'm eager to see what he can get out of him.

I think we're all also expecting to see Todd Cantwell come back into the fold under Smith, who was also rumoured to be an admirer of the England under-21 international. Here's hoping - we've missed Todd massively. 

Qualifying needs a shake-up

England's manager Gareth Southgate, right, and England's Harry Kane celebrate after winning the Euro

England manager Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane celebrate the semi-final victory - Credit: AP

What on Earth was the point in that England game in the week? I didn't watch it and I'm glad I didn't.

Speaking as somebody whose loyalty in the club versus country debate lies firmly in the club camp, I feel there are just far too many international games. 

But it isn't just the international games that are the issue, it's the calibre of the games you get in qualification.

Who can honestly say they get an iota of pleasure out of watching England smash 10 past teams like San Marino? What a waste of time.

While the joy of the FA Cup is seeing minnows get the rare opportunity to face big boys, the novelty of this playing out internationally isn't the same. In the FA Cup, non-league sides earn these glamour ties.

What I'd like to see is a shake-up of qualification to limit the number of damp squib games - and limit the number of internationals in general.