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Former Birmingham Mail journalist and now PA’s Brentford reporter Jim Levack gets the lowdown on the new Bees boss from former colleague and Walsall FC reporter Brian Halford.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about new Brentford coach Dean Smith is his “almost fanatical” love of Scouse rock band Half Man Half Biscuit.

That aside and away from football, the 44-year-old former Walsall boss is staggeringly normal.

He loves nothing better than walking his dogs across Sutton Park near his Birmingham home, will happily share a pint with the Saddlers hacks, switches effortlessly to cricket in the summer and is, above all, a dedicated family man.

But put him in charge of a group of footballers and he commands a respect that comes with a track record of being one of the country’s longest serving managers.

Journalist and author Brian Halford, who spent five years working alongside Smith, believes his arrival at Griffin Park is the perfect fit for both parties.

“A while after he took over at Walsall the team went on a winless run of 16 games. The fans were getting shirty and the players were struggling,” he recalled.

“But Smith stuck to his footballing principles, refused to bang the ball forward and never once lost faith in trying to play the game the right way.”

Equally importantly as reporters bayed for blood in the post match press conferences, Smith stood full square behind his squad and never once pointed the finger at an individual.

Halford said: “He never wavered. His response was to organise them better and to keep them playing football and the results, on a limited budget, were repeatedly there for all to see.”

Smith’s success at the club was built on adversity. His first of 142 games for the club came after a 15-game losing streak, the final straw coming when Chelsea hammered them 7-0.

Smith took his place in the heart of the defence and the Saddlers won 3-0 at Sunderland to confound the bookies and cement his place in the club’s folklore.

Coincidence? Maybe, but Halford thinks otherwise: “He has this ability to walk into a changing room and exude discipline, but is also the kind of bloke who is so totally likeable that players will work their bxxxxxxs off for him.”

His success in bringing young players through may have been instrumental in Brentford’s decision to give him the gig, alongside his seemingly unfailing ability to turn a sow’s ear into silk.

Halford said: “At Walsall he didn’t have unlimited financial backing but he and Richard O’Kelly have always been good at spotting young talent and bringing it through. I’m sure that now he’ll have access to slightly healthier funds he will get even more out of what he has to work with.

“He always gets his teams playing attractive football so there’s a definite correlation with Brentford there too. I have no doubt that he will do even better now he has the luxury of working with even better players.”

Smith’s engaging sense of humour is a key factor in his ability to squeeze the most out of his charges, as players like Troy Deeney and more recently striker Tom Bradshaw will testify.

“He has a real leadership quality which was apparent in his debut at Sunderland and is still apparent every day he comes into work,” said Halford.

“I’m not sure quite how it will work with him not having a final say in who comes in, but if they have technical ability and play the game as he wants it played, they and he will flourish.”

He added: “Every time Walsall have had success, players have left and Smith has had to replenishing the playing side but he has proved to be the master of reinvention and of all the clubs he could have joined Brentford is the perfect fit.”

Jim Levack