On the Couch With Dean Smith
By Eleanor Peters
In a new column, My Old Man Said’s resident doctor, Dr Ellie Peters, takes up her new post as Dean Smith’s therapist, as the Aston Villa Head Coach begins his monthly trips to the imaginary psychiatrist’s couch to discuss how Villa’s month went.
Disclaimer – all Dean Smiths words are quotes from April’s press conferences, interviews and media. Except the last one, that was made up.
Therapy Session Transcript Covering April 2021
Dr Ellie: Right Mr Smith, shall we reflect on Villa’s April? 1 win 1 draw 2 losses. You know T S Eliot said April is the cruellest month?
Dean Smith: I am an eternal optimist.
Doc: [under breath] Hmmm, classic goldfish memory syndrome…
DS: What was that?
Doc: Nothing. Do you think that being mathematically safe from relegation for the first time in eons has meant that your players, not for the first time disregarding government Covid guidelines, are on the beach?
DS: There’s not a drop off in effort from the players, I can guarantee that.
Doc: When I was a kid and the season was over, us Yam Yams and Brummies went to Rhyl beach in Wales.
DS: We will finish the season strong; we always do.
Doc: Okay, let’s talk about your reluctance around substitutions.
DS: Sometimes you need players to make an impact from the bench.
Doc: I’m guessing you’re talking about the Fulham game here? The only time, they’ve actually had an impact. Still, even then your team recorded only a mere four shots on target during the game.
DS: Sometimes you have to applaud the opposition.
Doc: Yeah, but it was only Fulham. What about the Citeh game? What was you thinking at half-time, once Joss Stones had been sent off?
DS: Down to 10 men…it gives us an advantage.
Doc: Yes, but I’m yet to see what advantage playing against 10 men provides for your Villa team? How about a change of tactics? Once Stones gets a red. Why no half-time changes?
DS: Well, I had to check and discuss matters first with JT, Shakespeare and Florence [Richard O’Kelly’s middle name].
Doc: Are they from the Magic Roundabout?
Doc: Talking about being on psychedelics, what was the deal with taking off Nakamba for Barkley in the game against Liverpool? He was playing, if not, well, marvellous, then reasonably.
DS: You need legs in your midfield area because you’ve got to cover a lot of ground in a game. Ross does that. We were unlucky to come away with nothing.
Doc: Freud would say that you may see substitutions as a transference of your neurosis?
DS: It was a tough one to change anybody.
Doc: When you were asked about Grealish you said ‘softly softly’ and then changed the subject to Sanson, who frankly everyone has forgotten about.
DS: Now I know I was a little bit vague last week
Doc: Surely every week?
DS: We never like to put a time frame on injuries…some come back earlier, some come back later.
Doc: Talking about that, Grealish had a shin injury on 18th December 2018 and was out for 83 days. Same injury, February 21st 2021,  days and counting…
DS: He could be back for Sheffield on Wednesday or Wolves next week…
Doc: Dean that was months ago…
DS: I can’t speculate… He’ll be back….He’s out on the grass loading the injury
DS: It’s a loading injury and we have to de-load him over the next few weeks and get him back from there.
Doc: [Chuckles] What’s he been carrying? Ross Barkley?
DS: It’s under control now. We still have to manage him obviously to make sure his loading is not too much.
Doc: Maybe buy some new quality players? So, next season, he doesn’t have the same heavy load of carrying the whole Villa team. The big question is though, will he be fit for the World Cup in Qatar, next year?
DS: We know it’s not a long-term injury and he will be back.
Doc: What’s your thoughts on the manager of the month for April? Bielsa or Bruce?
DS: As you know with me, I don’t talk about other clubs.
Doc: Thoughts about the May fixtures? Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea? Tough run-in?
DS: I have said many times my team’s normally finish seasons well and I expect them to do so again this season.
Doc: What is an acceptable finish for Villa this season?
DS: Top 10. We were aiming to do that anyway.
Doc: One of the benefits of therapy is the ability to safely work through your worst case scenarios. Nietzsche said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
DS: I thought that was Kelly Clarkson, you know that lass off American Idol?
Doc: Right, Dean. Same time again next month then?
DS: Yep. UTV.
 He actually said “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”