Ex-City man lifts lid on what players can expect from Dean Smith

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith celebrates with players at the final whistle as they secure their Pre

Dean Smith will take charge of his first City game against Southampton on Saturday. - Credit: PA

Norwich City fans have warmed to the idea of Dean Smith leading them into Premier League battle. 

It’s fair to say many where underwhelmed when his name entered the conversation around Daniel Farke’s successor. But upon closer inspection of his managerial record so far it became clear that sporting director Stuart Webber was willing to hand ownership of the first team squad to a safe pair of hands. 

His Premier League record indicates he is an upgrade on Farke – he knows what it takes to get results in the top-flight. 

He is similar to the German in one important respect to many City fans though... he’s a really nice guy. 

That’s according to former Norwich forward Ryan Jarvis, now plying his trade at Lowestoft Town in the middle of midfield. 

Jarvis played under Smith when he was assistant to Martin Ling at Leyton Orient and Smith took the former City academy product to his first managerial gig at Walsall later. 

Former Norwich City striker Ryan Jarvis in action for King's Lynn Town Picture: Ian Burt

Former Norwich City striker Ryan Jarvis in action for King's Lynn Town Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Jarvis knows better than most what Norwich have signed up for. 

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“He’s a top bloke first and foremost,” he said. “When I worked under him, he was fresh into management – he was previously a number two at Orient when I was there. 

“He was a really good coach – I think Walsall was his first manager’s job when he signed me so obviously, he was new to it and learning. 

“He was one of those managers that you really wanted to win for. He is a really good bloke and it’s a great appointment.” 

Jarvis acknowledges Smith may be a different manager to the one that took the reins at Walsall but believes his core beliefs as a coach will have stayed the same. 

“Looking back at my experience playing under him he wanted his teams very hard working, very organised and then he’d give you that freedom to go and express yourself,” he said. 

“There was no fear factor, if you like. He really wanted his players to feel free and if you made mistakes then it wasn’t a rollicking, it was a go and do it again and believe in what you are doing. 

“If you look at his Villa side, he’s changed formation a couple of times, but he has them quite organised and they played half decent football. He brought in some really intelligent footballers so just by his signings you can clearly see he wants to play intelligent football. 

“I think that’s perhaps why he went for the job because he knows the group of players Norwich have got and what they have built over the last two or three seasons because they have been up against each other quite a lot. 

“I think he will know the group of players inside out, hence why he has gone for the job really quickly. I think it’s a perfect appointment.” 

Smith has brought Craig Shakespeare from Aston Villa as his number two to Carrow Road – another who knows what the Premier League is all about from his days at Leicester City and Watford. 

But don’t expect Smith to let Shakespeare take complete charge on the training pitch. Jarvis said the 50-year-old isn’t someone who likes to take a detached approach to his players. 

“When I played under him he liked being out on the coaching field,” added Jarvis. “He liked to have a big part in the coaching sessions and implementing his ideas. 

“He wasn’t a manager that stood back and watched from the training ground building. He really wanted to be involved in it, which I liked. 

“He’s got Craig Shakespeare, who is a very good coach and I’m sure he will have him doing lots of session but I don’t think Dean will just stand back – he likes to get amongst the lads.” 

Smith is lauded for helping make Jack Grealish the £100m player he has become. Many City fans are hoping he can have a similar impact on Todd Cantwell, who fell out of favour recently under Farke as he was told to train with the Under 23s. 

Jarvis believes it’s crucial for Smith to bring the 23-year-old back into the City fold as soon as possible. 

“It looks like we could do with Cantwell at the moment and get him up and running because he is clearly a player that has got lots of ability and can make chances out of nothing,” he said. 

“He’s a player that we’ve lacked – that link between the midfield and putting the ball in the back of the net. 

“Hopefully Dean can put his arm around him and nurture him back in his first team fold and get him firing like he was last season.” 

Smith will of course be judged on results, not least on how he goes about the job of getting City off the foot of the table. 

It’s not a task that will intimidate the former Brentford chief, according to Jarvis. 

“It’s a hell of a job but when you look at the table there’s a few clubs down there looking for wins and it’s not like City are miles away. Newcastle are struggling and there are other clubs down there. 

“It only takes a good run and all of a sudden you’re right in the mix again. Hopefully Smudger (Smith) can restore that belief again in the group and put some confidence back in the boys. 

“It’s nowhere near over and I don’t think Smudger would have taken the job if he didn’t think he had a good chance of keeping Norwich in the Premier League.”