New City boss trying to ‘hit the ground running’ at Colney
- Credit: Denise Bradley
Dean Smith has confirmed he’s in no rush to make further appointments to his coaching team, as he tries to ‘hit the ground running’ as Norwich City head coach.
The former Aston Villa and Brentford boss has experienced assistant Craig Shakespeare working alongside him as City’s players returned to full training or from international duty ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Southampton.
Goalkeeper coach Ed Wootten remains in place and current staff will be stepping up in the short term, with head of football development Steve Weaver having led training before the new regime took their first full session on Thursday.
The end of Daniel Farke’s time with the Canaries also meant departures for assistant head coach Eddie Riemer, coach and analyst Christopher John and fitness chief Chris Domogalla.
“We wanted to come in and hit the ground running, to work with the staff that are here,” Smith explained.
“This club has had successful periods over the last few years. It’s been tough in the Premier League and we know that. It’s tough for any team getting promoted, that first season.
“But we’ve got a group of staff that I’m looking forward to getting to know. I got to know a few of them already over the last three or four days, via video calls and stuff like that. But happy to work with them and see where we go.”
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Shakespeare, 58, was Claudio Ranieri’s assistant as Leicester won the Premier League in 2016 and stepped up as manager to secure survival after the Italian’s exit in 2017, having initially assisted Nigel Pearson in achieving the Foxes ‘great escape’ of 2014-15 as well.
After again working alongside Pearson at Watford in 2019-20, Shakespeare arrived at Villa in the summer of 2020 and helped Smith earn 11th place in the top flight last season.
“Craig was fully behind me and very supportive as well,” Smith explained during his first press conference as Norwich boss.
“Craig has been with me the last couple of years and has been at a club that has fought relegation and then won the Premier League the next season (Leicester), which everybody never believed they would do.
“He’s experienced an awful lot in the Premier League and there was a big reason to get him with me, and I was very happy when he was fully behind the decision.”
The 50-year-old has previously worked with a set-piece coach but that has not been an immediate priority.
“Possibly in the future,” he added. “It’ll be me, Shakey, Ed and some of the performance team that can get on with that role.
“I worked with a set-piece coach at Brentford and Aston Vila and it’s something that I enjoyed. Football in general is starting to go that way in terms of specialist coaches at times.
“But there’s a time and a place. It’s probably not the time and the place at the moment. We need to hit the ground very quickly.”
That was a recurring theme for Smith as he spoke ahead of the visit of Southampton, knowing he inherits a squad at a delicate time, with a five-point gap to safety after one win in 11 matches.
He continued: “There certainly won’t be any information overload for the players, from two training sessions going into a game against Southampton.
“Hopefully we can build on the result at Brentford (winning 2-1) and the performance against Brentford, and Brighton and Burnley before that. That’s our job, to build on things.
“We’ll get our points across, what we think are the non-negotiables, straight away and then take it from there.”
One similarity that the former Walsall manager does have on his side, after a swift switch from Villa to Norfolk, is the structure which has sporting director Stuart Webber overseeing the football department at City.
Having worked his way up from youth coaching to being Martin Ling’s assistant at Leyton Orient during his early days as a coach and having stepped up from the academy to become caretaker manager at Walsall initially, the former defender has a wide range of experience in English football.
“My first job, I remember driving into training one morning and I’d spoken to a couple of agents, spoken to the chairman, the chief executive and then pulled on to the car park and thought ‘oh god’, I’ve got to go and do a training session as well now,” Smith joked.
“Then at Brentford I was working with two sporting directors, and then at Aston Villa with a sporting director and a chief executive. So I’ve worked in many models.
“The relationship that you build with the person that you’re working with is the most important thing and I’m sure, having met with Stuart and Neil (Adams), that those relationships are going to be really good.”
Smith can also call on the advice of a Canaries legend as well if he needs it, having played alongside former City skipper Grant Holt at Sheffield Wednesday during his playing days, who works as a club ambassador.
“Holty’s already texted me that he wants to come and have a coffee,” Smith said with a smile. “I was his captain at Sheffield Wednesday, I think we’d just signed him from Barrow, and he started complaining about the beans on toast for food.
“I soon told him, remember what you were eating two weeks ago and he said ‘yeah, you’re right’. He’s a good lad, Grant.”
- You can watch footage from Smith's first training session in the video above