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Thomas Frank relishing locking horns with former Brentford boss Dean Smith

Frank was assistant to Smith and ultimately replaced him as head coach three years ago.

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Brentford manager Thomas Frank faces his friend Dean Smith on Saturday (John Walton/PA)

Brentford manager Thomas Frank faces his friend Dean Smith on Saturday (John Walton/PA)

Brentford manager Thomas Frank faces his friend Dean Smith on Saturday (John Walton/PA)

The Premier League might still be unknown territory for Brentford but boss Thomas Frank will come up against some familiar faces on Saturday.

The Bees head to Aston Villa with Frank ready to pit his wits against Dean Smith, the man he was assistant to and ultimately replaced as head coach three years ago.

Smith guided Villa to promotion in 2019 and Frank has now joined his good friend in the top flight following their play-off success last season.

The pair remain in regular contact and know each other inside out, which Frank admits might not necessarily be an advantage to either of them.

“I think it goes both ways. I know him very well and he knows me very well. We know how each other think, and maybe that helps, maybe not,” said Frank.

“I am very happy for him. He has done so well. I know how brilliant he is as a manager to build a culture and building a belief in how he wants to play. But besides that, the most important thing is that he is an unbelievable man.

“Dean and Richard O’Kelly, who was assistant, were a massive help for me when I joined the club. It was the first time for me out of Denmark.

“They made it so easy for me to be integrated in Brentford. I told them coming into the club that I needed to earn their trust but they were so open from day one.

“Me being from Denmark and they from England, hopefully we gave each other the culture of one another, but to understand English football they were a massive help.

“Since we have split I have been on the phone with Dean asking for advice. He has always been helpful.

“Dean was there for three years and built up the club. No doubt Dean had a very big impact in terms of the foundations we stand on.

“We lifted it the season I took over and then we took it to the next level but we needed the strong foundations and Dean build that so I could stand on that perform.”

Frank must also come up with a way to stop Ollie Watkins, the striker he sold to Villa for a club-record £33million.

Frank revealed Watkins, who scored 26 goals for the Bees in the 2019/20 season, was in tears after they missed out on promotion in the play-off final against Fulham.

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“I wish Ollie all the best. I’m so happy he is having success,” added Frank.

“It was a sad moment when he had to leave. He loved the club, loved his team-mates and wanted to play in the Premier League with Brentford.

“He had an unbelievable season with us and we knew he would have to go on and try and be a success in the Premier League, which he proved last year.

“Even though we got a good price I still think it was a bargain for Villa!”

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