Charlotte FC recently appointed Dean Smith as the club’s newest head coach, making a splash hire by bringing a former Premier League boss to Major League Soccer.
Smith’s hiring makes him the third coach in as many seasons for the Crown, as the Eastern Conference side have failed to stick with one boss for more than one season.
Charlotte began play as an expansion side in 2020 with Miguel Angel Ramirez but then opted to go down a different path with the hiring of Christian Lattanzio. Lattanzio guided Charlotte to a ninth-place finish in in the Eastern Conference table in 2023, which was good enough for a Wild Card spot and more importantly the club’s first-ever postseason appearance.
The Crown were dismantled 5-2, and owner David Tepper once again decided to make a change despite Lattanzio guiding the team to the playoffs. In comes Smith, a 52-year-old Englishman with loads of coaching experience in the Premier League.
Before standing on the touchline in the world’s most competitive league, Smith worked his way up with Walsall and Brentford before going toe-to-toe with the world’s best in the English top flight. With Walsall he compiled a 85W-91D-84L record in 260 contests and went 57W-35D-51L with Brentford.
Smith has worked his way up from the lower divisions in England to take on coaching duties in the Premier League, going from Walsall in League One, where he began his playing career, to the Championship with Brentford before reaching the heights of English football later on.
There’s been plenty of ups and downs in Smith’s time as a head coach, so what can fans of Charlotte FC come to expect in 2024?
In October 2018, Aston Villa sat in 15th place in the EFL Championship and looked destined to go another year without achieving promotion to the Premier League. However, Smith stepped into the frame that month, and from that point on, everything changed at Villa Park.
Roughly seven months later, Smith had the Villans flying. As the season concluded, Aston Villa finished in fifth place in the Championship and went on to win the playoff final, defeating Derby County 2-1 at Wembley Stadium to seal promotion to the Premier League for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign.
Smith’s debut season with Villa saw him total a record 20W-16D-10L record, establishing a dominant goal difference with 61 goals scored and just 21 conceded. Things were looking up for Smith and co after a wonderful season where he magically righted the ship, but things were about to get much more difficult.
Smith narrowly avoided relegation in the 2019/20 season, his first as a Premier League boss, as Villa finished in 17th place with 35 points, just one more point than 18th-placed AFC Bournemouth.
The Villans leapt up the table in the following 2020/21 season, as Smith guided the team to an 11th-place finish with 55 points and a 16W-7D-15L record. One of the more memorable games from that season was when Villa decimated reigning champions Liverpool 7-2 at Villa Park. Smith also guided the Villans to the Carabao Cup final where they fell just short at the hands of Manchester City, 2-1.
Jack Grealish would end up leaving the team for a then British record transfer fee of £100m after back-to-back stellar seasons, leaving a void in the Villa attack. The 2021 campaign would prove to be disastrous for Smith, as he was fired just 11 games into the season after a winless run of five games.
As he took over Villa when they were in 15th place in the Championship, he was shown the exit door with his side 15th in the Premier League just a few months into the season. The Villans had collected just ten points from their first 11 games of the season, signaling that Smith’s time was up at Villa Park.
Overall, Smith compiled a 56W-27D-55L record as Aston Villa boss in 138 games in charge.
Following the disappointing start to the 2021/22 season with Villa, Smith quickly found himself another job as head coach of Norwich City, then still in the Premier League. Smith took over a Norwich side that had just won their first game and were without a manager as Daniel Farke was dismissed after a 2-1 triumph over Brentford.
Smith’s tenure saw the Canaries relegated and included a 5-0 thumping to Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season to really rub salt in the wound. Norwich finished dead last in the Premier League with 22 points from Smith’s 28 game at the helm, winning just five times and conceding 84 goals.
Norwich decided to stick with Smith into the new season in 2022/23, but it was a decision they soon began to regret. Smith received the opposite of a Christmas present and was relieved of his coaching duties just before the New Year after going on an unimpressive run of three wins in 13 games. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Norwich’s 2-1 defeat to ten-man Luton Town on Boxing Day, as the Canaries were well outside the automatic playoff positions in fifth place in the Championship table.
In 56 games in charge, Smith led Norwich City to a 17W-10D-29L record.
Smith was out of work for a few months before being tasked with keeping 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City up and avoiding relegation. However, like his stint with Norwich, it only ended in tears with an unsuccessful relegation battle.
Smith was brought on board at the King Power Stadium with the Foxes in 19th place in the Premier League, essentially needing a miracle to prevent them from being sent down to the Championship. It turns out, Smith is not necessarily a miracle worker.
In Smith’s defense, there are probably only a handful of managers who could’ve kept LCFC up in that situation. His record in eight games in charge wasn’t terrible, either, as he coached the team to 2W-3D-3L record before they finished in 18th place with 34 points. Leicester City were not that far off from safety, as they were just two points behind Everton who have a knack for avoiding relegation.
Smith has shown he has what it takes to make teams competitive, and perhaps he’ll be helped by the fact that relegation is a foreign term in MLS. Smith will more than likely be expected to build off Lattanzio’s success in 2023 with the likes of Karol Swiderski and Enzo Copetti leading the way.
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