By Graham Hill
DEAN Smith says it is vital he and Jack Grealish remind the entire Villa team what promotion means to the supporters.
Both Smith and skipper Grealish grew up as Villa fans – and they both want success for that reason alone.
But the Villa boss says it is important to transmit that feeling to the rest of the players as they prepare to face Derby County at Wembley in the Championship Play-off Final
Smith told BBC Radio WM’s Football Phone-In that the unity that has been obvious since March is a major factor in Villa’s play-off charge.
He says the links between players and fans – which has often been missing during a turbulent few years – is crucial.
Villa’s Head Coach said: “It’s very important – the supporters are the lifeblood of the club.
“They’re the ones who are a constant.
“Players and managers come and go. We have to make sure there’s a connection between all of us.”
But Smith says the local links in the team can make the difference this time.
He added: ‘“It helps that I’m from the area.
“It also helps that Jack Grealish is from the area.
“I hope the two of us can have an influence on the players.
“That includes how they are among the supporters when they see them.”
Smith encourages his players to connect with fans rather than staying apart.
He said: “We have big numbers who travel everywhere, loads who wait outside after a game,
“All the lads will go up and sign an autograph, like they should do.
“What I don’t want is that distance between people. The players are human beings, they need their privacy now and again.
“But we need that connection and that the supporters can see the team playing for their shirt.”