Nigeria’s duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho noow have a new boss in their club as Leicester City have named ex-Aston Villa and Norwich City boss Dean Smith as caretaker manager until the end of the season after parting ways with Brendan Rodgers, the Premier League club said on Monday.
Smith takes over from Rodgers, who left the club by mutual consent earlier this month with the team second-bottom in the table and facing potential relegation.
“Smith brings a wealth of managerial experience and expertise to the role and, along with his coaching team, will be tasked with helping the football club retain its Premier League status as we head into the final eight games of the current season,” Leicester said in a statement.
Leicester won the Premier League title in 2015-16 against all odds but are now in danger of the drop after nine seasons in the top flight.
Smith’s appointment comes in the wake of Leicester’s 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, their 19th league defeat of the season. The East Midlands club have 25 points after 30 games, two points adrift of the safety zone.
“I’m really happy to have the opportunity to lead the team during these final weeks of the season,” Dean Smith said.
“The challenge in front of us is clear, but it’s one myself and my coaching team have experienced before and, with the quality in this squad and the number of games remaining, it’s very much achievable.
Smith’s first game in charge of Leicester will be a trip to reigning champions Manchester City on Saturday. Leicester have not won a game in all competitions since Feb. 11.
“Our first job is to rebuild confidence and instil belief in the team and I’m looking forward to getting to work with the players this week,” Smith added.
“Saturday will be a big test, but it’s the kind of occasion that reminds us all what it means to be a Premier League club, competing on the biggest stages against the best players in the world.”
The Englishman last managed in the Premier League during the 2021-22 season, in which his Norwich side were relegated. He left Norwich in December with the team struggling in their bid to earn promotion back to the top-flight from the Championship.
Prior to his spell at Norwich, Smith was in charge of Villa between 2018-2021, guiding them back to the top flight via the playoffs in his first campaign before helping them retain top-flight status in the following season.
He also came close to winning silverware with Villa when he led them to the League Cup final in 2020, where they lost 2-1 to City.
“We’ve endured a challenging season, but I have no doubt that we have the quality in our squad to win this fight,” Leicester chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said.
“Dean’s experience will be key to unlocking that potential, helping the team rediscover its confidence and channelling the support of our fans, who will be so important during these final eight games.
“This is a fight we can win, together.”
Craig Shakespeare, who was assistant coach to Smith at Norwich and Villa, will reprise his role at Leicester, the club he guided to the Champions League quarter-finals during his spell in charge of them in 2017.
Former England and Chelsea defender John Terry, who was part of Smith’s coaching set up at Villa, will also join Leicester.