Robin Sainty: Smith's got the right CV for City job

New Norwich City head coach Dean Smith watches the players training at Colney. Picture: DENISE BRADL

New Norwich City head coach Dean Smith, centre, watches players training - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

At last, we can get back to some actual football today after the bizarre media circus of last week. 

In the course of a few days, we saw the profile of the favourite for new City manager move from left field and intriguing (Kjetil Knutsen), to glamourous but insubstantial (Frank Lampard) before settling upon solid and experienced in the form of Dean Smith. 

Like many fans, I wasn’t initially excited by the prospect of City recruiting a manager who had just been sacked by a relegation rival, but on reflection the appointment of Smith seems to make the most sense.  

Knutsen would have been the romantic option, mainly because few City fans had ever heard of him before last week, but it would have been a huge risk to pluck someone from the Norwegian league while Lampard, the archetypal media darling, would have brought the glamour of his name, but little in the way of significant managerial achievement. 

Frank Lampard manager of Chelsea applauds the fans after the Premier League match against Burnley at

Frank Lampard - Credit: Michael Sedgwick/Focus Images Ltd

I also didn’t relish the prospect of the club becoming 'Frank Lampard’s Norwich City', which would have been almost inevitable given the way that his tenure at Derby County was turned into a cult of personality by his pals in the media. 

Whether there were also other candidates, and how things would have turned out had Smith not become available, are now moot points, and once you cut through the hype it’s not difficult to see why City appointed a man who has been on Stuart Webber’s radar since he was at Huddersfield. 

Lampard may have the image, but Smith has the substance, having had to pay his dues in the lower leagues rather than being parachuted into a big spending club on the strength of his name, and while he may have had a big budget at his last club, he has shown at Walsall and Brentford that he can produce good sides with limited resources. 

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The more I’ve seen and heard of Smith this week the more impressed I’ve been, and the fact that he will have Craig Shakespeare in the dugout beside him is seen as a big positive by many City fans after his success at Leicester. 

However, I am slightly worried by the fact that only a couple of weeks have elapsed since Smith was sacked at Villa. Of course, it could be argued that he will be hungry to prove a point, but as we saw with Daniel Farke, the pressure of a run of defeats in the Premier League can result in a loss of self-belief and a subsequent lack of clarity about how a manager wants his team to play. 

Hopefully, that won’t be the case for Smith, but a more general concern is how quickly he can get his players attuned to what he requires from them. 

Clearly, he will have had very limited time with the full squad before today’s game with players returning from international duty, so it may be next week before we get a better idea of his tactical approach and preferred formation, but we should at least expect a positive reaction from the players as they look to impress the new boss. 

What will be particularly interesting is how Smith handles players who have found themselves out in the cold under Farke, with Billy Gilmour, Todd Cantwell, Christos Tzolis and Jacob Sorensen being the most obvious examples. 

Regardless of that, he must quickly find a way of balancing attacking intent with defensive solidarity if City are to put a run of results together in the next few weeks, which they must do if they are to have any chance of Premier League survival, but most importantly he needs to quickly install a 'can do' mentality into his players and get away from the negative attitude that some games are unwinnable. 

His first press conference certainly suggested that he will, so let the new era begin!