Aston Villa hope to put on performance fit for a prince after Duke's visit
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith hopes a visit from the Duke of Cambridge this week can inspire his side to a rare home win over Manchester United.
Prince William, 38, opened Villa's new high performance centre at their Bodymoor Heath training HQ on Tuesday.
The Duke is a big Aston Villa fan and impressed Smith with his knowledge of the side.
Smith, 50, said: “It was really nice.
“Our owners invested a lot in the facilities to take us to that next level and we were fortunate that Prince William the Duke of Cambridge came and opened our high performance centre.
“He wore the club colours on the day.
“We know he’s a Villa fan but speaking to him I didn’t know how much of a Villa fan he was.
“He was very knowledgeable of everything that goes on at the club and probably wanted the photos of the players as much as we wanted a photo with him.
“It’s a great thing for the club to have that royal seal of approval.”
The Duke's visit also produced a poignant moment for Smith as their special guest paid tribute to the Villa manager's late father Ron, who passed away last year aged 79 after contracting Covid and was previously a club steward.
“He made a really touching tribute to my dad which I didn’t expect,” added Smith.
“I was surprised but really honoured, as were my family who saw the presentation and very nice words from him which I thanked him for.”
Now Smith hopes Villa's very own VIP can help them to victory over United.
Villa have not beaten United at home in the Premier League since a famous 3–1 opening day win in 1995, when pundit Alan Hansen criticised the visitors' young line-up.
“It has been too long,” reflected Smith.
“It shows the success Manchester United have had under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“But it also shows we need to be doing better.
“I expect a really good game.
“They are second in the league on merit ,have had a really good season and just reached the Europa League final as well.”
United's home game against Liverpool was postponed last weekend after fans stormed Old Trafford to protest against the club's involvement in the European Super League.
But Smith is not predicting any repeat scenes on Sunday.
He said: “I wouldn't expect any.
“I don't to be honest because I find it hard enough to get into Villa Park myself.
“I don't think many others will be able to get in there.
“Our security staff are very diligent.”
Smith also confirmed skipper Jack Grealish will train with the first team on Saturday as he steps up his comeback from a shin injury and could be available for Everton's visit on Thursday.
He added: “He has been doing every other day 3-4km work on his feet, which has been controlled.
“His first day of training will be with the players Saturday.
“But we will be guided by Jack who knows what the pain will feel like but also the medical staff as well.”