Villa boss Dean is named Manager of the Month for March but knows there is still work to be done to make sure of Play-Offs
By Graham Hill
DEAN Smith says it is vital that Villa keep their form going after being named Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for March.
Smith collected the prize after a ‘perfect’ month of five wins over Derby, Blues, Forest, Middlesbrough and Blackburn.
It is a run that has propelled Villa back into the play-off places – and flagged them up as candidates for a return to the Premier League after a three-year exile.
The run has coincided with the return of Jack Grealish from injury – and Smith’s decision to give him the captaincy now looks an inspired one.
But the current form shown by players such as John McGinn and on-loan defender Tyrone Mings is another factor.
And Villa can cement their place in the top six still further with an EIGHTH successive win when they host Bristol City on Saturday.
Smith told http://www.efl.com: “I’m delighted to have been named Manager of the Month – it’s a reward for all the staff here at Aston Villa. We’ve had a good month and we now need to make sure we keep it going.”
George Burley is the chair of the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel and he added: “Dean is ‘Villa’ through and through and that means the results achieved in February will be even more satisfying.
“Aston Villa won all five of their matches in the month, scoring 13 goals and conceding only two.
“Wins against three Midlands rivals while climbing into the Play-Off places were the icing on the cake.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “What a transformation Dean Smith masterminded in his team during the month of March.
“At the end of February, it was almost impossible to imagine Aston Villa putting a run together to realistically challenge for a Play-Off spot let alone be in pole position to secure one, but the tightening up of a porous defence and the return to fitness of Jack Grealish has transformed them into the team that all the others may fear most.’’
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Dean Smith has got Villa flying at the minute. The Villans have won their last seven matches and look red hot going into the Play-Offs.
“They were 50/1 for promotion at the start of them month and are now as short as 9/4 to make a return to the top tier of English football this season. I don’t think anyone will look forward to playing them in this form.”