Soccer

Charlotte boss Dean Smith still driven by determination to ‘prove people wrong’

The former Aston Villa manager is excited by a new challenge in Major League Soccer.

Dean Smith has joined Charlotte FC as head coach
Dean Smith Dean Smith has joined Charlotte FC as head coach (Alana McCallion)

Dean Smith wants to defy the doubters after rejecting opportunities to coach in the Championship to start a new chapter with ambitious Major League Soccer side Charlotte FC.

The 52-year-old returned to management in December, having just fallen short in his attempt to keep Leicester up during a short spell in the hot seat at the end of last season.

Smith takes charge of his first competitive match since the Foxes’ final Premier League game when Charlotte host New York City FC in their MLS opener this weekend.

The former Aston Villa boss beat England great Frank Lampard to the job and more than 60,000 will be at Bank of America Stadium for his first game in the dugout.

“I’d spoken to a few clubs in the UK, mainly Championship clubs,” Smith told the PA news agency.

“None of them felt quite right for me, so it was all about what the next opportunity was going to be.

“When this came about and I got asked if I wanted to join in the process, I just thought it’d be a challenge, it’d be exciting.

“It would get the juices flowing again, so to speak, because it’s something that I’ve not done before, never been out of the UK to coach and I thought it’d be really good challenge.”

Smith joins a club entering their third MLS season, with former Premier League players Ashley Westwood and Scott Arfield among those in Charlotte’s squad.

Leicester fan favourite Christian Fuchs serves as one of his assistants, having retired in North Carolina and joined the coaching staff after skippering the team during their first campaign.

Smith joins them in Charlotte with a determination to help the team grow and improve on last season’s wildcard defeat at the start of the MLS play-offs.

Dean Smith ended last season in charge of Leicester
Dean Smith ended last season in charge of Leicester Dean Smith ended last season in charge of Leicester (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think one of my drivers has always been to prove people wrong and try and get to that next level all the time,” the former Norwich, Brentford and Walsall manager said.

“I was fortunate enough to coach Brentford and build a team that Thomas (Frank) eventually took over and ended up getting into the Premier League.

“But also taking Aston Villa to the Premier League, I’m really proud of that because in 2010, 2011, I was coaching at Walsall, the under-14s, and my daughter was sitting on the side of the pitch doing her homework.

“So, you know, it’s been hard work to get where I am.”

Dean Smith got the best out of Jack Grealish at Aston Villa
Dean Smith got the best out of Jack Grealish at Aston Villa Dean Smith got the best out of Jack Grealish at Aston Villa (Mike Egerton/PA)

Smith’s determination brings hope to Charlotte, who still have room to sprinkle stardust on their side by signing a marquee player over the coming months.

Put to Smith that Jack Grealish, his skipper at Villa, could do with a few starts right now, he laughed and said: “Yeah, I still speak to Jack very regularly.

“He’s just coming back from an injury. But he’s not done bad already at Manchester City and he’ll continue to do so, and England in the Euros.

“But, yes, we’re looking to add some quality into the squad. When I looked at the squad during this process, I just felt that there were areas that we could improve on.”