Brentford v Aston Villa: Dean Smith hopes to out-think ex-assistant Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank (right) spent two years working with Dean Smith at Brentford after being brought to Griffin Park from Denmark in December 2016

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has mostly happy memories of his three years as Brentford manager prior to his return to the Midlands four months ago.

But in Wednesday’s first visit to West London since leaving Griffin Park for Villa Park, Smith has to end a run of dominance for the Bees in this fixture that he himself created.

And to do that, he must outwit his old Bees assistant coach Thomas Frank.

“At Brentford, we seemed to beat Villa. Now Villa have to go and win,” he said.

“I’ve got to try and beat them and tactically out-think Thomas, who worked with me very closely for two years.”

In their five league meetings since Villa were relegated to the Championship in 2016, Brentford are unbeaten.

Smith was in charge for all of those five games, two ending in comfortable home wins and three in away draws, the last of them another of those barmy Villa Park nights back in August when Neal Maupay scored what seemed to be the Bees’ winner on 82 minutes, only for Jonathan Kodjia to level in the fifth minute of injury time.

‘Maybe we’ve got some momentum’

Dean Smith was in the home dug-out on Boxing Day 2017, when Brentford beat Steve Bruce’s Villa at Griffin Park for a second successive season

Villa’s catalogue of crazy climaxes reached new levels of disbelief on Friday night when they came back from 3-0 down with just eight minutes of normal time left to draw 3-3 with automatic promotion hopefuls Sheffield United.

Judging by the rows and rows of empty seats in that dramatic 13-minute turnaround, the majority of Villa fans missed it, having already left the ground.

And, after two successive trips to Griffin Park, in which Villa have been well beaten by the Bees, there may be a feeling in Smith’s camp that they owe their faithful away fans a result.

“We’ve clearly still got a lot to work on,” he said. “You can’t give a side a three-goal head start like that. But maybe we’ve got some momentum out of it.

“After all that had gone before, we at least finished the game well and showed a lot of character after thinking that the game was gone at 3-0.”

It remains to be seen what sort of reception he will get from the Brentford fans, but Smith at least knows he will be made welcome by the club’s staff.

“They’re really good people,” he told BBC Sport. “I still have a lot of friends there, staff, directors, the owner. He was the first to text me on Friday night.

“I spent three years of my career there, We played some outstanding football, and developed some good young players. I loved my time there. But now I’ve got a job on my hands with Aston Villa.”

Premier League players in the Championship?

Amid the frenzied excitement on Friday night, there were some real plus points for Villa, in the continued injury absence of chief playmaker Jack Grealish, especially the identities of their goalscorers.

January loan signing Tyrone Mings netted on his home debut, to end a controversial first week, which saw him involved in an incident in which Reading’s Nelson Oliveira had his nose broken, on a high.

Meanwhile, top scorer Tammy Abraham found the target again and young winger Andre Green headed the equaliser, to make his first mark since returning from spending the first half of the season on loan at League One high fliers Portsmouth.

“Andre came on when we made a couple of changes midway through the second half and we had a go but it was not until Tyrone scored that you could really feel it in the stadium,” said Smith.

“Tyrone’s had two really good games for us. He’ll be disappointed that we’ve conceded three goals but he’ll be pleased he’s got on the scoresheet. He’s given us an added threat at set-pieces.

“I’ve tried to bring in quality players and he’s one of them. Like Tammy, he’s a Premier League player playing in the Championship.”

Chelsea loanee Abraham’s 20 league goals this season have already made him the first Villa player to reach that landmark since Peter Withe famously did so in their title-winning season in 1980-81.

In comparison to Withe’s 20 in 36 matches, he has also reached that total in just 26 games, with 16 of them at Villa Park, where he has failed to score just twice in 13 home games.

The only downside is that, conversely, he has not been so effective on the road, having only netted four times.


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