Dean Smith revealed his desire to take interim charge at Leicester dropped to 50-50 following their drab home defeat against Bournemouth last weekend, but the former Aston Villa manager insists he can keep the Foxes in the Premier League.
Smith has just eight matches to turn Leicester’s dismal season around, starting with an intimidating trip to Manchester City on Saturday, following Brendan Rodgers’ dismissal earlier this month.
The Foxes have lost both games since Rodgers was given his marching orders, leaving them second from bottom, two points from safety, and in real danger of relegation to the Championship.
The home fans turned on the Leicester players after Philip Billing scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 defeat to the Cherries last Saturday.
Speaking in his first press conference since taking the job, Smith, who last week was preparing to watch the Masters as a spectator at Augusta National, admitted belief within the squad is low.
“We cannot get away from the fact that we have lost seven of the last eight games and confidence is not going to be high,” said Smith, who will be assisted by Craig Shakespeare and John Terry.
“I watched the Bournemouth game and if I was 80-20 for taking the job, then I probably went down to 50-50.
“But I know the players. I have come across them before. I have played against them, I know we just need a lift, and with me, Craig and JT coming in, I am confident we can give them a lift.
“So far I have seen great attitude, great quality and great enthusiasm from the squad, and we are trying to put smiles on their faces.
“It is tough given the situation we are in, but I have always been a big believer that if players go out and train with a smile on their face, and play with a smile on their face, their confidence can change very quickly.
“I look at the squad and the fixtures, and I feel that there are games there to be won and points to grab so we can climb out of the bottom three.”
Leicester turned to Smith, 52, having seen a move for former Leeds boss Jesse Marsch collapse.
Asked if he had spoken to the club’s owners about being in charge beyond this season, Smith replied: “It is not a conversation we have had. It is an interim job with eight games in seven weeks.
“Last week I was watching the Masters in Augusta on Tuesday and Wednesday, and now I am back in England, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Harvey Barnes will miss Smith’s first game in charge with a hamstring problem, but creative midfielder Youri Tielemans is available for selection again after recovering from injury.
Smith continued: “I have watched a lot of good teams try to impose their game on to Manchester City and they have come unstuck.
“We have to stick to a game plan, stay in the game for as long as we can, and we have seen teams like Brentford go there and get a result.
“City are one of the strongest teams in the Premier League, if not the world, but we have to believe in ourselves and that we can go there and get a result.”