By Graham Hill
VILLA boss Dean Smith says the backing of the club’s owners mean they could be a force in the Premier League – if they get there.
Smith has guided Villa into the Play-offs with two games to spare.
And while Villa are one of the favourites for promotion – he knows anything can happen once the race to get into the top flight becomes cup-tie football.
But owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris clearly think something is brewing at the club they saved from going into administration last summer.
They flew in for the Millwall game and saw Villa set a new record of successive League wins when they made it 10 in a row.
Villa can now prepare for the Leeds game with no pressure on them until a likely semi-final against West Brom.
And while Smith knows Villa could start flexing some financial clout if they are promoted, the manager knows the hard work starts now.
Asked if Villa can have a major presence in the Premier League, Smith told reporters: “Yes but we have to get there. There’s still a long way to go as we have said.”
But Smith says the owners’ presence at Villa Park this week only underlined the support he has been getting.
The Villa boss explained: “To be honest I’ve always had encouragement from the owners.
“Nassef has been to a couple of games and I’ve had a few meetings with him.
“Wes has been in America a lot and has big interests there.
“He owns the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team and they’re in the play-offs at the moment, doing ever so well.
“I was fortunate enough during the international break to go over and watch them play as well.
“They have been very supportive and it was great they could align their diaries to get over to a game.
“I think through Christian and Suso they have a good idea of how things are working.
“There is daily dialogue between all of them and they stream a lot of the games as well.”
Smith says Edens has two play-offs to concentrate on.
The Villa boss added: “I think both of them are important.
“I wouldn’t like to put one ahead of the other.
“The Bucks are very strong. They won the regular season this year and have gone into the play-offs as one of the top teams.“I think they’ve won it once – and that was me looking on Wikipedia!