‘It’s been a fantastic year for me’ - young Town star

TOMMY Smith likes to work hard – and it’s paying dividends for the Ipswich Town defender who has failed to start only one Championship game this season.

The 20-year-old had just a three week break last year and he says that it will hold him in good stead for 2011.

Smith is expected to partner Damien Delaney in today’s league fixture against Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena (kick-off 3pm) and on Monday afternoon when Town entertain Nottingham Forest at Portman Road.

And after recovering from a year out after breaking his ankle, Smith looks back on his World Cup experience as the reason for his consistent displays.

“I’d have thought you were pulling my leg if you’d told me 12 months ago that I would play all three games for New Zealand in the World Cup finals,” said Smith.

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“That experience has helped me massively, and I think I needed that confidence after last season, when I was in-and-out of the team.

“I didn’t know where I was going at times last year.

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“So I needed the pick-me-up of the World Cup to get me going.

“I now want to be a part of the international scene for as long as I can with All-Whites games planned against Japan and China in March.

“It’s been a fantastic last year for me personally. I’ve only had three weeks off, but that’s not been a problem at all. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

Despite the responsibilities put on his young shoulders this season Smith has only come up a short a few times – taking one touch too many in front of goal against Swansea City at home being one that will stick in the minds of fans.

“You need to learn from experience to reach your best, and I think I’ve improved a lot over the last six months,” added Smith.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, I’m the first to admit that, and hopefully I have learnt from them. You can’t do anything to change a mistake.

“I still consider myself to be a young player learning his trade.

“I’ve been getting lots of advice from the likes of Gareth McAuley and Mark Kennedy, and I’m hoping that I can continue to improve.

“There are a few years ahead of me in which to develop, before I get to my prime.

“When I was growing up, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were the players I looked up to, and then when I came to Ipswich, I looked up to players like Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos.

“Now, Mark Kennedy is a player who has played in the Premier League and has a wealth of experience, and the Premier League is where I want to play- hopefully with Ipswich Town.”

And looking ahead to the current month, Smith went on: “It’s a massively important part of the season.

“As a team, we need to become harder to beat, like we were earlier in the season.

“We need all our players fit and Shane O’Connor’s injury came from an innocuous looking challenge. Brian Murphy’s was horrible when I heard him cry out.

“It made me feel sick, because it reminded me of my own previous injury. It was not nice.”

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