Club versus country row over Ipswich Town and New Zealand defender Tommy Smith

IPSWICH Town and New Zealand became embroiled in a club versus country row over defender Tommy Smith this week.

The 21-year-old centre-back has travelled halfway across the world and back this week to play in a 3-2 friendly defeat (against Jamaica) for the All Whites in Auckland.

The gruelling homeward bound leg of the journey – which included three flights and took more than 24 hours – was set to have the defender back on English soil around 6am this morning. Smith was then expected to report for Town training by 10am, with Jewell admitting he will have to make a late decision on his fitness tomorrow morning ahead of the visit of Bristol City to Portman Road.

However, if the Blues boss had had his way, Smith wouldn’t have left the country at all.

“Tommy got a bit of a bang on his knee against Brighton last weekend,” said Jewell. “It swelled up a bit and we e-mailed the New Zealand doctor to say we were a bit concerned.

“We got a short, sharp, swift e-mail back saying make sure he was on the flight or they would invoke the five-day rule.”

FIFA rules state that if a player withdraws from international duty due to injury, the nation concerned can insist that the player is prevented from featuring for their club for five days after the date of the international match.

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That would have prevented Jewell from selecting Smith for the sixth successive game tomorrow, with Town looking to make it four games undefeated at home.

“If the knock had been more serious we would probably have just kept him here anyway and taken the wrap because Tommy’s fitness and health is more important,” said Jewell.

“We’re trying to keep him on English time as much as possible. He’s been given sleeping tablets, so hopefully he’ll have slept on the plane. We’ll have to see how he is when he gets back.”

– See tomorrow’s EADT for full match preview of Ipswich v Bristol City.