Aston Villa back in the Premier League: Dean Smith promises his side will still play to win

Villa head coach Dean Smith cannot wait to pit his wits with this season's two top Premier League bosses Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola
Villa head coach Dean Smith cannot wait to pit his wits with this season's two top Premier League bosses Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith promises his side will still play with a winning mentality in the Premier League next season - even when they play Manchester City and Liverpool.

The boyhood Villa fan turned boss was so excited at winning promotion that he joined in the singing at Wembley - and he promises the fun did not stop there.

"We'll come up against the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp," he said.

"People might laugh at me but I'll still want to try and win those games."

Smith told BBC WM: "We know we have to recruit well to compete next season. That's massively the key.

"But the coaching side is important too. I want to continue to play football in a manner where where we're trying to win every game.

"That's the way you have to be. That's the way we'll approach it.

"It's an unbelievable accomplishment from myself and my staff from where we were three months ago, but the planning starts now.

"In fact, it started after the Millwall game [in April], when we first knew we had made the play-offs. And, if I'm being honest, we've been jigging things around and talking about what we might or might not do from the moment we came in."

Villa are now playing catch-up

After winning promotion via the play-offs at Wembley more than three weeks after the regular Championship ended, Smith knows he is already almost a month behind in his preparations for next season compared to the two automatically promoted clubs - Daniel Farke's Norwich City and Chris Wilder's Sheffield United.

"We're now looking to catch up with all the other teams who have got a head start on us," Smith, 48, said.

"I saw Chris Wilder on the pitch at Wembley and said to him he's been doing it for four weeks already. The play-offs seem such a long time after the end of the season.

"We've got eight contracts up that we've got to deal with and other players to bring in.

"It's such a tough Premier League, we know that. But I've got a good working relationship with [chief executive] Christian Purslow and our sporting director Jesus Suso [Garcia Pitarch].

"He's done it at Atletico Madrid and Valencia. Suso's very good at his experiences at his job, and he's got his team working on it."

Former Villa striker Christian Benteke sent a congratulatory message to his old club on Twitter
Former Villa striker Christian Benteke sent a congratulatory message to his old club on Twitter

Will Villa's five loan men stay?

Villa now have decisions to make on the seven players they now have out of contract this summer; play-off semi-final penalty shoot-out hero Jed Steer, fellow goalkeeper Mark Bunn, defenders Tommy Elphick and Alan Hutton, midfielders Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan plus winger Andre Green.

And they also have to talk about the future of the five loan players who all ended the season lapping the pitch at Wembley and milking the adulation; top scorer Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), winger Anwar El Ghazi (Lille) and defenders Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United), Kortney Hause (Wolves) and Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth).

"We have options with El Ghazi and with Kortney Hause and we have a matching option with Tyrone Mings," said Smith.

Abraham and Tuanzebe are both due to return to their respective clubs, and Smith is keeping his intentions private.

"Whether I'd like to keep them or not is a conversation I need to have with their respective clubs," he said. "But they've been fantastic servants.

"The loan signings we have are also good people. As well as bringing in good players, we have to bring in good people with good character and personalities. That's what unifies a team and gets that togetherness."

No better place to be than at Villa

After Tottenham Hotspur's open pursuit of Jack Grealish last season, Smith is also not at all worried that he might lose any of his star players - especially not his captain.

"There will be suitors," he said. "But there'll be no better place for them than to be in the Premier League than at Aston Villa.

"You could see from Jack's celebrations on the pitch at Wembley that he'll still be here. And super John McGinn as well."

Grealish's post-match celebrations at Wembley were those of a genuine Villa fan living the dream of playing for his boyhood and Smith, who himself proudly wore claret and blue as a boy, clearly still gets the same buzz.

"I had a moment on that pitch," he admits. "I could see myself there from that day at Wembley in 1994 when we beat [Manchester] United in the League Cup final.

"I did let myself go a bit with 'Hi Ho Aston Villa'. And I said to Richard O'Kelly that when I went to bed on Monday night I was still singing 'Sweet Caroline'. I couldn't get it out of my head."

Dean Smith was talking exclusively to BBC WM's Mark Regan

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