Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has won the Premier League Manager of the Month award for December in recognition of his team’s stunning form to round off the calendar year.
Having started the season exceptionally well, Villa recovered from a poor run of results in November to go unbeaten in December and surge back up the Premier League table.
Villa started their December schedule late because of a postponement against Newcastle, but were victorious in a West Midlands derby against Wolves at Molineux.
After a draw against Burnley, Villa once again claimed local bragging rights in their final game before Christmas by thrashing West Brom thanks to a brace from Anwar El Ghazi, who was nominated for the Player of the Month award, and one from Bertrand Traore.
Boxing Day produced another 3-0 win for Smith’s side, this time over Crystal Palace - despite being down to ten men for much of the game. El Ghazi and Traore were again on the scoresheet, joined by Kortney Hause.
Villa finished off December by frustrating Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
"Going into the month of December we were still quite confident but I suppose the Wolves game was quite pivotal. Had we lost that game we could have lost a lot of confidence but we got the win and that helped maintain the belief we had in the dressing room,” Smith told the Premier League website.
"The highlight for me was Boxing Day. We played Palace at home, went down to ten men but still won comfortably and could have scored more - that was an outstanding performance."
Smith is the first Villa manager to win the individual accolade for more than ten years, with Martin O’Neill last winning one in April 2010. O’Neill won four awards in total during his time at Villa Park, while John Gregory and Brian Little are the other Villa bosses to win them.
Smith is also only the fourth Englishman to win Manager of the Month since the start of the 2018/19 season after Eddie Howe, Frank Lampard and Sean Dyche won once each.