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Dean Smith: We have best Academy Head possible – we want the best one in the region and country

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Dean Smith: We have best Academy Head possible – we want the best one in the region and country

Dean Smith says new Academy Head Mark Harrison gives Aston Villa the best chance of producing first-team players in the future.

Harrison joined over the summer following a long and successful stint in the same position at West Bromwich Albion, where he helped them to become one of the best in England for developing young stars.

Following insight from Harrison and new U18 Assistant Coach George Boateng this month, Smith has now spoken on the further positive steps the club have taken in an attempt to thrive in all areas.

The Head Coach says he was heavily involved in the process of appointing Harrison, and now wants us to become the leading Academy in the region.

He said: "I was involved in the recruitment process for Mark, along with Jesus Garcia Pitarch, Jeremy Oliver and Christian Purslow.

"We wanted the best Academy Head that could make ours the most progressive in the area.


"Mark's got a good track record of doing that. I've been impressed by his work and have seen it close up during my time with both Walsall and Aston Villa.

"I was fortunate enough to pick up a few of the West Bromwich Albion players from his era in Romaine Sawyers and Paul Downing.

"They knew how to produce players there. Now, I think Mark will take over here and push us forward.

"We want to be the best Academy in the area, and even the country. That's got to be the aim and the ambition.

"We also have Richard Beale in now with the U18s – another established coach who is very good at his job. I've known him for a long time.

"And we have George Boateng, who understands the club and knows what's required. He was a top professional who played a lot of games at the highest level."


Reflecting on the current promise of young players across the club, Smith also says everyone has a marker in Jack Grealish.

The gaffer also insists a new outlook on loan moves will be key to similar success stories in the near future, and that he'll always be watching closely in an attempt to spot the next gem.

Smith added: "We have a shining light in Jack Grealish, who's come through that system.

"We've used a policy this year of getting a lot more of our young players out on loan. The likes of Callum O'Hare, who scored the winner for Coventry City last weekend.


"Players like Cameron Archer also show that there will be a chance if they do well. He did really well when he came on at Crewe for 20 minutes.

"I also watched the U23s play Salford City in the EFL Trophy, which was a really good experience for them. They were harshly done with a penalty decision.

"But what an experience for them to go and play men's football against a team looking to get promoted from League 2.

"They're getting the experience we believe they need now, in order to push for a first-team place in future."

Dan Connor
By @danconnor 11th September 2019