Smith: ‘Why this final is different’

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith says it will be a ‘different’ Aston Villa side that returns to Wembley this year.

Villa boss Smith has steered his side to a second successive Championship Play-off Final after this week’s victory over West Brom.

And Villa will be keen to wipe out the memory of 12 months ago when they turned in a disappointing display against Fulham.

Villa’s visits to Wembley finals since the turn of the century have all resulted in defeats and Smith wants to use this opportunity to turn things around.

He told BBC Radio WM’s Football Phone-In: “It was always going to be a tough one last year.

“Fulham had a lot of momentum and were a very good team.

“They’d won something like 21 of their last 25 games.

“Villa didn’t really perform in the first half but they did in the second.

“They knocked on the door and didn’t quite get there.

“But this is a different Villa team now.”

Smith points to his forward line as a real threat going into matches at the moment.

The Villa boss added: “You look at the front three – who weren’t great against West Brom the other night.

“You’ve got 22-year-old El Ghazi, 21-year-old Tammy Abraham and 20-year-old Andre Green.

“So you’re got a freshness about them with a lot of youth and energy.

“But we know Derby have outstanding players such as Mason Mount and Harry Wilson. They’re two of the foundations for Derby, we have to make sure we’re aware of that. But we have a good team at the moment.”

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