English Premiership

Sink or swim?: Newboys braced for Premier League baptism of fire

2019-08-08 07:59
Wesley Moraes
Wesley Moraes (Aston Villa website)

London - Having reached the Premier League, Chris Wilder, Daniel Farke and Dean Smith are about to find out whether or not promoted Sheffield United, Norwich and Aston Villa will sink or swim.

Norwich boss Farke and Smith, who led Sheffield United back to the top flight, get an early taste of life in the Premier League on the opening weekend. 

Norwich are away at Liverpool on Friday while Villa go to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. United have a gentler introduction also away at Bournemouth.

Farke has not done badly for a man who never wanted to be a football coach, the 42-year-old German learning the art at unheralded Lippstadt.

"In a small club you have to do everything: negotiate with the bus company, do all the contracts, all the press work, all the coaching work," he told The Guardian. "It was really exhausting."

All his hard work, though, led to him being hailed as the saviour of the club when he left in 2015 - signing off in unorthodox fashion by riding round the stadium on horseback.

Farke was known for making and serving the coffee, as well as bringing in the crates of water when he was coach of Borussia Dortmund's reserve team, and Norwich would appear to fit his personality perfectly.

The Canaries are a relatively small but well run club who have opted to rely on Academy graduates like Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis for this season and not splash out in the market - just over £1million spent with £750 000 of that on defender Sam Byram.

Smith, by contrast, has been allowed to spend freely since Villa crept in as the third promoted team - beating Derby in the play-off final - bringing in 12 players at a cost of £134 million.

The devoted Villa fan, who learnt his trade at unglamorous Walsall and then Brentford, will hope they do not suffer a similar fate to Fulham, who spent over £100 million only to go straight back down last season.

'A mad scramble'

The 48-year-old Englishman could be forgiven for having his mind on other matters with his father Ron - who for 20 years was a match day steward at the club - suffering from dementia.

"He's been in a home the last three years," Smith told The Times in April this year. "He doesn't know who I am. Unfortunately, he doesn't know I'm Villa manager."

Smith got to ride on the bus when Villa won the 1982 European Cup thanks to knowing full-back Pat Heard and he would love his father to know his little boy was now their manager.  

"Dad would be amazed, and very proud," said Smith.

Wilder, who with Smith takes the tally to eight Englishmen in charge of Premier League clubs, the largest number since 2008, has had the luxury of United shelling out just under £40 million.

It's another world to the one he experienced when he was in charge of Northampton Town or non-league Halifax Town.

"They are not fond memories," the 51-year-old lifelong Sheffield United fan told The Daily Mail.

"At Halifax, we were supposed to be getting picked up by a coach to Tamworth and it didn't come. We had to drive. It's not a short one either!

"A personal one was when my credit card got declined in Sainsbury's.

"We used to get the cheques at the end of the month and it'd be a mad scramble to get them in quickly.

"The first lot got cleared... I wasn't lively enough on that day."

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