DEAN Smith is convinced he can handle the pressure of being Villa manager – and that he is up to the job.

Smith has found himself under the microscope at Villa Park after a run of two wins in 14 games – ahead of their visit to Stoke – which has left their play-off hopes hanging by a thread.

The honeymoon looks to be over for the lifelong Villa fan who replaced Steve Bruce in October.

Fans have been split over the ex-Brentford boss – but most seem prepared to give him the time he needs to rebuild the squad.

Smith told reporters at his pre-match press conference: “Any football club, any business place, any workplace you go to, the word I always use is culture.

“I believe there’s a good culture here, but within that there has to be a togetherness of pushing in the same direction, because it is very difficult if you don’t do that.”

It was the same phrase used by on loan defender Tyrone Mings earlier this week.

Smith added: “You can’t have individuals, you can’t have fragmentation of any sort.

“There has to be a togetherness to drive people forward. If you want to be successful, that is the key word.

“I think we have had it, but there are certainly things we can improve on as well.

“At Brentford, my aim was to be promoted. Every game I went into, I believed we’d win.

“When we didn’t win I would feel it. I don’t feel it any more or less here. I think perhaps my family probably do.

“But I’ve been in the game for 30 years and I understand the nature of it – and the margins that can turn a result from a win to a loss.”


TYRONE Mings has urged Villa to be ‘ruthless’ at Stoke City this weekend.

The on loan Bournemouth defender knows how important the game at the bet365 Stadium is with Villa clinging on to their hopes of making the play-offs.

And he insists Villa are not a team that are bring outthought this season.
Mings this week urged Villa to keep ‘pulling in the same direction’.
And he told Villa’s official website: “I always convince myself that every game I go into is the biggest of my career.

“It’s the only one you can influence. It’s the same this weekend.

“We know how Stoke like to play. We know what we have to do to stop them and how we implement ourselves on them.

“We’ve prepared professionally for what will be a tough game. Hopefully we can get that win.

“I don’t think any game I’ve been involved in for Aston Villa that we’ve looked seriously outthought.

“Even at Brentford, there were times I thought they weren’t going to score. We’ve been in every game.

“We’re not far away. We just need a little bit more ruthlessness and aggression.”


DEAN Smith’s injury worries are piling up ahead of their trip to Stoke City.

Villa’s fading play-off hopes have not been helped by a growing list of absentees.

Goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic is a doubt for the clash at the bet365 Stadium and his fitness will be assessed before the game.

The Croatia internatonal was replaced at half-time during Villa’s defeat to West Brom last weekend as he was suffering mild concussion.

It is a problem Smith could do without as he already has midfielder John McGinn suspended for the trip to the Potteries.But Jack Grealish, Tom Carroll, Axel Tuanzebe are also out of action at a time when Villa need to be at full strength if their play-off bid is to pick up over the final few weeks of the season.

Failure to win at Stoke could see Villa lose touch completely with the top six and needing an almost faultless run-in to May,


INJURED Villa defender Axel Tuanzebe says he will be ‘back soon’ from injury as he updated fans on Instagram.

The 21-year-old, on loan from Manchester United, had played every minute under manager Dean Smith before suffering a foot injury in the build up to the defeat to Leeds United in December,

Tuanzebe has also been a regular under former boss Steve Bruce and played alongside James Chester at the back.

He hinted that he could be available again in the run in to the end of the season.

But Smith has since recalled Tommy Elphick from Hull City and signed Tyrone Mings on loan from Bournemouth,


VILLA defender Frederic Guilbert may not be at the club right now – but it seems he has enough problems of his own in France.

Guilbert, 24, signed for Dean Smith on deadline day from French club Caen, but was immediately loaned back to the Ligue 1 side.

Now the right-back is totally focused on keeping his side in the division – saying he is ‘ashamed’ of the position they find themselves in.

Caen are second bottom of the table, two points away from safety.

Guilbert is looking forward to arriving at Villa Park this summer – but is desperate to keep Caen up before he does.

He said: “I hope everyone realises that we are in a very difficult time and we will need everyone. We are a little ashamed of ourselves.

“I have only one idea in mind, and that’s to leave the club in Ligue 1. I arrived in Ligue 1, I want them to start again in Ligue 1. It’s the club of my region, I was formed here.

“It’s been three years now that I live this. It’s hard. I think we are in a slightly more complex situation than in previous years. We will have to fight, for our honour, for our pride, for the name we have on our backs. We will have to raise our heads and save this institution.”