Jewell challenges Tommy Smith to prove himself at U’s

‘PROVE yourself to me’. That was Ipswich Town manager Paul Jewell’s message to defender Tommy Smith yesterday as he loaned him out Essex neighbours Colchester United until the end-of-the-season.

The left-sided centre-back was a regular player under Roy Keane in the first half of the season, but has failed to play a single minute since Jewell took over as Blues boss in January.

Keen to see his New Zealand international in competitive action, but unwilling to disrupt the centre-back partnership of Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney, Jewell allowed Smith to join the League One U’s on loan until the end-of-the-season with the option of a 24-hour recall yesterday.

And the soon-to-be 21-year-old, who has another year left on his Blues contract, revealed he had no hesitation in making the short trip down the A12 to temporarily drop down a division.

“The Ipswich gaffer asked me my thoughts about going to Colchester and I jumped at the chance because I’ve not been playing,” said Smith, who links up again with his former Ipswich youth team coaches Tony Humes and Richard Hall – both of whom are now at Colchester.

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“The last time I played for Ipswich was on New Year’s Day so of course it has been frustrating.

“The new manager has come in and changed it around and I can’t really have any complaints because the two centre-halves have been doing well.

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“He (Jewell) has sat down and explained his decisions to me and the last thing he said was ‘prove to me that you want to be part of my plans for next season’.”

Smith trained with his new team mates for the first time yesterday morning and will travel up to Merseyside this afternoon in preparation for the U’s game at Tranmere tomorrow afternoon.

He will, however, then miss home games against Oldham and Exeter next week due to the fact he will be away on international duty with New Zealand. The All Whites – for whom Smith featured at last summer’s World Cup – fly out to China next Tuesday afternoon in preparation for a friendly on Friday. They were also set to play in Japan the following Tuesday but that game has now been cancelled due to the nuclear crisis currently facing the country meaning Smith should be back in time to play at Sheffield Wednesday.

The U’s – who have been operating with just two fit centre-backs in recent weeks – have seen their play-off hopes hit hard by three consecutive defeats.

They are now 13 points adrift of the top six with 10 games to go, with manager John Ward having yesterday failed to bring in a loan striker to boost the side’s low goal tally.

– For all the latest Ipswich and Colchester news, see today’s EADT.

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