A nice read.
I would suggest a lot of Walsall rather than a bit.
Smith is surrounded by some very good coaches. I’d suggest two of them were schooled on the Buckley style and have adapted the Buckley way to the modern game. O’Kelly and Shakespeare were mainstays of the Buckley side in the early 80’s and it is no coincidence that both also saw their careers take paths via West Brom and Grimsby before entering coaching.
The Driscoll/O’Kelly teams played in a not dissimilar way to Buckley’s sides and I think it no coincidence that an O’Kellyless O’Driscoll has floundered (unfortunately!!!).
Smith didn’t play in Walsall teams that were very good. Despite bursting onto the scene in that three nil win at Sunderland in the second division he wouldn’t look out of place in the current side. So his coaching way and playing philosophy has been developed out with his playing days. He brought the era of tikka takka to Walsall in a not dissimilar way to Buckley but from all accounts manages players with a ton more clarity than Buckley who as well as a bit of a baller was also a bit of a bawler.
Whilst the Graydon corollary to the story is an interesting and whimsical segway I don’t think the Graydon influence has really had anything to do with Smith’s development nor what is going on at Villa. The first seeds of what is happening at Villa were sewn when Buckley became player manager in 1979 with a young Richard O’Kelly joining at the same time. A year later a young Craig Shakespeare was on the books and all three were a big part of a team that went to Highbury and outplayed Arsenal then went to the best team in Europe and got a draw. In both cases this was done by playing a brand of football based upon possession, passing and moving. Exactly how Smith and O’Kelly got us playing thirty years later, how Brentford play and now how Villa play. A Villa team that went to Arsenal and played them off the park and go to the best teams in Europe and take them on at football.