Dean Smith faces major questions if Villa start slowly after transfer activity

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Dean Smith is on rocky ground at Aston Villa but Fulham boss Scott Parker has credit in the bank, says Darren Bent.

Villa narrowly escaped the drop last season, finishing just one point above the relegation zone.

However, Smith has strengthened his squad and spent big during the summer.

He snapped up Ollie Watkins from Brentford, Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal and Matty Cash from Nottingham Forest for a combined £64m.

Retired striker Bent – who scored 25 goals in 72 games for Villa – reckons the pressure is now on for the 49-year-old chief.

"It was difficult for Smith in his first Premier League season," he said.

"But ultimately, he did exactly what he needed to do – which was keep them up.

"Now it's about building on that because he got a bit fortunate at times and they were conceding goals for fun.

"He knows Villa can't be as close to the edge as they were last season.

"Holding on to Jack Grealish has been a massive bonus and getting in Watkins is brilliant business.

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"But if they do get off to a bad start, people will begin wondering, 'how long has he got left?'

"I know a few fans are still slightly unsure about him, which I think is a little harsh.

"He needed to invest in the squad again and, to be fair, he's done that.

"There's a few managers in the same bracket as Smith, though. If they don't get points on the board early, questions will be asked."

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Fulham boss Parker, meanwhile, guided his side back to the Premier League last season at the first attempt.

The former midfielder took over in 2019 after the Cottagers had already sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri earlier in the campaign.

Fulham have already lost their first two games of this season, but Bent reckons owner Shahid Khan won't be in a rush to wield the axe.

"They've definitely got the right man in charge," said Bent.

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"He's quietly gone about it under the radar as well. He's becoming a top manager and he was a great team-mate.

"I think Fulham will actually be okay, even if they end up very close to the bottom three.

"Parker has still got credit in the bank from last year and he'll be given a bit more time than his predecessors.

"He was a player and captain there, Khan will want him to make his mark."

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