This is the first time Smith has won the award despite being nominated for the award three times this season, having been previously nominated in September and October. On those occasions, Smith lost out to Carlo Ancelotti and Nuno Espirito Santo, but he has finally managed to claim his first prize. The Villa chief beat out Ancelotti, Sean Dyche and Ole Gunnar Solksjær to the award.
A fine month
Villa were unbeaten in the month of December, despite facing some stiff opposition during the month.
They started their December fixtures with a last-gasp win over Wolves on 12 December, with a 94th minute Anwar El Ghazi penalty giving Villa a narrow win over their local rivals. They then dominated Burnley for 90 minutes at Villa Park but couldn’t find a way to break them down, despite El Ghazi striking the crossbar in the first half.
The Villans then collected a second win of the month with a dominant 3-0 win over local rivals West Bromwich Albion in an unhappy return to management for Sam Allardyce. Albion went down to 10 men when Jake Livermore received a straight red card in the first half. Bertrand Traore notched his first Premier League goal and El Ghazi bagged a brace in a controlling display in their second December Derby.
The festive period was capped off with another 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, where this time Villa were down to ten. Tyrone Mings was dismissed for two yellow cards, but Villa rose to the occasion and only improved after the red. Goals from Traore, Kortney Hause and another El Ghazi screamer gave Villa a strong win over the Eagles.
The month ended with a battling 1-1 draw with Chelsea, with El Ghazi scoring yet again. His fine form was enough to grab El Ghazi a Player of the Month nomination, alongside fellow Villan Emiliano Martinez, but both eventually lost out to Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes.
A long time coming
This is Villa’s first Manager of the Month award in almost 11 years, with the last award coming for Martin O’Neill in April 2010.
In that month, Villa picked up three wins and a draw. The wins came against Bolton Wanderers, Hull City and Portsmouth, with the highest-ranked of those teams currently sitting second in League One. The month also included a 2-2 draw with fellow current European battlers Everton, who were then still managed by David Moyes.
Since then, Villa have had seven separate managers in the Premier League across seven and a half Premier League seasons, with an additional three seasons and two managers in the Championship.