Championship side Brentford have confirmed the appointment of Dean Smith as their new head coach.
The 44-year-old joins the Bees from Walsall, along with assistant Richard O’Kelly, having been the fourth longest-serving manager in the top four divisions after nearly five years at the Banks’s Stadium.
Smith only signed a 12-month rolling contract at the Saddlers last month after they rejected an approach from Rotherham but Brentford, 11th in the Sky Bet Championship, have tempted him to Griffin Park.
Brentford head to Bolton on Monday with youth coach Lee Carsley in charge for the final time. The former Everton midfielder took over, initially until the end of the season, after the club sacked Marinus Dijkhuizen in September but insisted he did not want the job long term.
Brentford’s co-director of football, Rasmus Ankersen, said: “We believe Dean is exactly the authentic and strong leader we need to take Brentford forward and ultimately into the Premier League.
“We have been hugely impressed by Dean’s work at Walsall and especially how he has managed to turn a club with such a low budget into one pushing for promotion.”
Walsall chairman Jeff Bonser added: “We are disappointed to lose Dean. He is the fourth longest serving manager in English football and would have been at the helm for five years in January. We categorically did not want him to leave this football club and did all we could to keep him at the helm.
“He has been fantastic for Walsall Football Club and, in turn, we have been fantastic for him. We gave him his opportunity in management and believed in him throughout his tenure.
“We thank him, and Richard O’Kelly, for their hard work and efforts. However, we now have to look to the future.”
Smith replaced Chris Hutchings in January 2011 with the Saddlers bottom of Sky Bet League One and eight points adrift but he saved them from the drop on the final day. He guided them to their first-ever trip to Wembley, before losing 2-0 to Bristol City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last season, and Walsall are currently fourth in the third tier.
Former Bristol Rovers boss John Ward, who is Walsall’s professional development coach, will take caretaker charge ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Shrewsbury along with physio Jon Whitney and goalkeeping coach Neil Cutler.