Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is looking forward to reuniting with Brentford and former colleague Thomas Frank in Saturday’s Premier League clash at Villa Park.
Smith spent close to three years in charge of Brentford before taking on the Villa job in October 2018.
During his time in west London, the 50-year-old brought in the relatively unknown Frank as part of his coaching staff and the Dane went on to become first-team manager.
Frank and Smith are now back on equal footing again following Brentford’s promotion to the top flight, and the latter is delighted to see the Bees in the big time.
“It will be emotional because it is a fantastic club with really good people and I really enjoyed my time there,” said Smith, who managed Brentford 143 times in total.
“Their progress is there for all to see over the last seven or eight years – from when they were in League One.
“I was certainly cheering them on to get into the Premier League and I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against my old assistant.”
Villa have taken three points from their first two matches of the season, while Brentford followed up a famous win over Arsenal with a goalless draw away at Crystal Palace.
Frank has been tipped for big things and is thankful to Smith for his help and support.
“It was the first time I’d ever left Denmark to work, coming to a new country and a new culture, and it tells you everything about him that he invited me to live with him,” Frank said.
“He is an extremely open-minded person and made it so easy for me to integrate with Brentford. I was coming into the club, but I still had to earn their trust.
“Since he left we have spoken on the phone regularly and I’ve had some good advice from him which has been helpful. He is a very good manager and an even better person.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aston Villa – Danny Ings
The recent arrival from Southampton has made a bright start to life at Villa with goals in his first two league matches, including a sublime strike in the win over Newcastle United. The last Villa player to score in their first three matches of a season was Dalian Atkinson in 1992-93, so Ings will have a chance to add his name to a very short list on Saturday.
Brentford – Pontus Jansson
Frank’s side are yet to concede a goal in the Premier League and could become only the third newly promoted side to keep a clean sheet in their first three games after Charlton Athletic in 1998-99 and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18. Jansson has been a rock in the heart of Brentford’s defence, leading the way for clearances against Arsenal with six, while no player managed more against Palace than his three.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Villa have never lost a top-flight match against Brentford (W5 D1), with this the first such meeting between the sides since February 1947 (Brentford 0-2 Aston Villa).
– Brentford are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Aston Villa (W3 D3, all in the Championship between 2016-2019). However, all three games at Villa Park in that run finished level, with the Bees never winning away against the Villans in all competitions (D5 L2).
– The Villans have not lost their first Premier League meeting with an opponent since August 2008, going down 3-2 at Stoke City. The Villans have won five and drawn two of their seven such games since.
– Villa have scored two goals in each of their last five Premier League games. They last scored two-or-more goals in more consecutive top-flight matches in October/November 1980 (seven), in their last title winning campaign.
– Aston Villa have scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the only side with a 100 per cent such record in the competition so far.