It is not just free-flowing attacking football that Dean Smith is famous for. The new Aston Villa manager is renowned throughout the Football League for his willingness to give youth a chance.
During three years at Brentford, Smith turned Ollie Watkins into one of the most exciting forwards anywhere in the Championship, Neal Maupay became a genuine contender for the Golden Boot, while centre-back Chris Mepham developed so much that Bournemouth reportedly made a £10 million bid for him in the summer (the Sun).
Rico Henry, Lewis Macleod and Sergi Canos also shone under Smith at Griffin Park, while the one-time Chelsea wonder kid Josh McEachren has shown signs of finally living up to his vast potential.
So the identity of Smith’s first transfer target as Aston Villa boss should come as little surprise.
20-year-old Marshall, who has eight league goals in 33 games this season, is also on the radar of Tottenham, Leicester, West Ham and Liverpool and has been compared to a young Raheem Sterling.
But does alleged interest in Marshall indicate what Villa fans can expect from the Smith reign? Put simply, a refreshing trust in young talents.
A number of Villa fans were left baffled by Steve Bruce’s apparent refusal to give the club’s array of youngsters a route into the first-team. And the signs suggest that things will be very different under Smith.
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