Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith remains coy over New Zealand quit threat reports

Tommy Smith celebrates scoring for Ipswich Town in Saturday's 3-1 home defeat to Wigan Athletic. PHO

Tommy Smith celebrates scoring for Ipswich Town in Saturday's 3-1 home defeat to Wigan Athletic. PHOTO: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

Tommy Smith admits he was ‘frustrated and annoyed’ by a recent club-versus-country fixture clash but insists he has not considered international retirement.

The 23-year-old centre-back has always tried his utmost to represent the country he grew up in, New Zealand, as well as the club that has helped develop him from the age of 16, Ipswich Town.

Having represented the All Whites at the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympic Games, Smith captained the Kiwis in their two-legged World Cup qualification defeat against Mexico last November to take his number of caps to 27.

FIFA rules meant he was forced to miss Town’s 3-2 win at Blackpool the weekend prior to the first game though and he subsequently made himself unavailable for a friendly in Japan earlier this month.

“International fixtures aren’t meant to conflict with your club games and it really annoyed and disappointed me that they wouldn’t allow me to play in that game (at Blackpool),” said Smith, when asked about reports that he had threatened to quit international football around the time of the Mexico games.

“I haven’t really got anything to say other than that. It all happened behind closed doors, we had a conversation and I don’t really want to make that public at this stage.

“To be fair that was before a number of changes. There is a new CEO in charge of New Zealand football now and the head coach has changed as well. They’ve said they want to put a policy into place which will make more sense to the clubs. Hopefully, going forwards, we won’t have any of those sort of situations again.”

On missing the recent game in Japan, Smith – who took his goal tally for the season to four in Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Wigan – said: “It was only a friendly and with the amount of games we (Ipswich) had in March and the importance of those games I thought it was vital to stay behind and make sure I am right physically and mentally for those games.

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“It was a bit of a no-brainer for me. As much as I love playing for New Zealand, obviously my bread and butter is Ipswich Town and I want to do as well as I can for them in order to push for these promotion places.

“New Zealand have an interim manager at the moment, Neil Emblen, and I know him quite well. I think he played under the gaffer (Mick McCarthy) actually back in his time (for Millwall). I had a chat with him and he understood my situation. He was a player himself over here (making more than 300 appearances for the likes of Wolves, Walsall and Norwich) and knows the rigours of the league. He was quite understanding which bodes well for the future.

“There’s another friendly in June, but I don’t think I’ll attend that one either. I need a nice long summer break, hopefully with promotion under our belts if all goes well. It hasn’t crossed my mind yet to fully knock it on the head, no.”