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Press Conference hot topics: Smith on Play-Off Final, Derby County, club-wide unity and his final words to the players

Dean Smith's Play-Off Final press conference Tyrone Mings: I’m feeling the love – now to give our fans a special day!
Press Conference hot topics: Smith on Play-Off Final, Derby County, club-wide unity and his final words to the players

Dean Smith held his final press conference before the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final at Bodymoor Heath on Thursday.

Below are his full thoughts ahead of the massive clash with Derby County at Wembley.


On his emotions ahead of the final...

I'm quite calm, to be honest. Cool, calm and collected.

We've had some good rest days, some good training days and now we're really looking forward to it.

It's a long period to wait, from the semi-final to the final. There's a lot of time to kill, but also a lot of preparation time.

We're feeling good.

On if camp has been extra competitive...

Not really, it's been very similar.

We got the West Bromwich Albion win out of our system in our time off and it's been back to normal.

On if he says anything extra to the players...

Certainly not in the build-up to it.

Fifteen days with the players is like an international break, except you have all your players available.

We broke that time up for the players to prevent it feeling too much like a pre-season camp.

We're just looking forward to the game now and it's one that, if we perform, I feel we can do very well in.

On starting quickly in the final...

I think what helps us with that is that we've been playing must-win games for the last 15 or 16 matches.

Every one has been taken in isolation and we went on an unbelievable run.

These players can take great credit for that. Aston Villa has a proud history and these players are the ones who've won 10 on the bounce.

They've already got history-making status on their side. They're in form, too. 

We've just dominated two games against Albion, who finished above us. I thought the right team went through.


On Jed Steer...

He could have been playing on Sunday with Charlton!

He can take great credit in them getting there, but more so in us getting to Wembley.

His chance came along after injury to Ørjan Nyland and Lovre Kalinic. He was ready for it, he worked hard with Neil Cutler and he's improved.

He's got confidence. As have the players around him.

On what it means to the loan players...

I think the opportunity to get promoted is the big thing for them. Not just for the loan players, for all of them.

From where we were in February to where we are now, it's a great opportunity for them to try and take.


On the club-wide spirit he's created...

I think all the sell-outs over the last six months shows that we've captured the imagination of the supporters.

They're enjoying what they're seeing, they are entertained and feel a connection with the players. That's really important.

Jack Grealish has come back and helped with that – a local boy being captain.

In general, it's the way the players have played for those shirts that's helped with the connection.

On Derby County...

They were very good against Leeds United. A lot of people expected them to lose that game, especially after going a goal down.

Derby put on a really good performance and that goal before half-time changed the team talk for Frank Lampard.

They got about Leeds in the second half and pulled it off.

I always said whoever we faced would be a good team and a good club. We know we've got to be at our best.

On Play-Off Final tactics...

It's 11 players against 11 players and it's about who performs better on the day.

Tactics will play a small part, but it's about who goes and performs on that big stage.

I feel we have the players who can handle that, and that mix of young and experienced players. Most have probably played at Wembley already, including last year.

But the key thing is momentum. I feel we have a lot of that going into it, given our run towards the end of the season and our two dominant Play-Off games.

We can take it into the final.


On squad fitness and availability...

It's exactly the same as the semi-finals – only Ørjan Nyland is out with injury.

Everyone else is fit and fighting for their place in training.

They're tough decisions but I enjoy making them because it means there's a lot of options there for me.

You play your way in by working hard. I will pick the best team possible to win the match.

On his bench for the final...

We saw Mile Jedinak coming on to score a crucial penalty in the semi-finals. That's how closely you need to look at your matchday 18.

We'll certainly be looking at the ones that can make the impact.

On his final words to the team before they walk out at Wembley...

I will say: be a good team-mate.

Dan Connor
By @danconnor 23rd May 2019