That day, Villa defied all odds to win.
‘Nine years ago, I was becoming the manager of Walsall in League One, looking to keep them up,’ Smith said ahead of today’s clash with Manchester City.
Dean Smith wants his players to make their families proud in Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final
Villa take on current Premier League champions Manchester City in this year’s final
‘If anyone had told me after nine years I would be sat here as Villa manager leading them into a domestic cup final, I would have said, “You’re crackers”.’
There’s a sense of perspective, though. Many of Smith’s Villa memories have been shared with his father, Ron.
For the past four years, Smith has visited his father, who has dementia, in a care home. Ron does not even know his son is Villa manager.
Smith and his family are die-hard Aston Villa fans with this support going back generations
When Smith took the club to the Championship play-off final last May, he promised to be a Premier League manager when they next met. ‘He smiled, if not anything more,’ said Smith.
This time, Smith is not holding out much hope of his father being able to register that much.
‘I’m not sure I’d get much out of him, to be honest,’ said Smith. ‘I’m not sure I’ve seen his eyes open for the last month or two.’
Smith has already had success with Villa at Wembley during last year’s play-off final
With the odds stacked against Villa today, Smith is hoping his players can be inspired by a desire to make loved ones proud.
‘[Family] is what I talk to the players about,’ said Smith. ‘Play for your family — because they’re the ones in your lives you want to send home proud.’