Tommy Smith ready to complete his zero to hero transformation
TOMMY Smith’s remarkable transformation from zero to hero could be clinched against Peterborough tomorrow.
The 21-year-old shudders when he thinks back to the reverse fixture last August – a day which capped a disastrous few months for him personally and left him fearing for his Ipswich Town career.
With the Blues down to 10 men and trailing 4-1 at London Road in front of the television cameras, centre-back Smith was introduced at the break as manager Paul Jewell aimed for damage limitation.
However, little over a minute after the restart, the New Zealand international was joining team mate Lee Martin for an early bath after clumsily tugging Lee Tomlin back on the edge of the box. He hadn’t even touched the ball.
Ipswich went on to lose 7-1 and Smith, having been part of the 5-2 home defeat to Southampton four days earlier, and who had endured a difficult loan spell at League One side Colchester United towards the end of the previous campaign, was beginning to see a career at his boyhood club slip away.
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“That was a low point,” admitted the defender. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying I began doubting my ability, but it wasn’t going well for me and I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I should have been.
“It’s good to have people to talk things over with at times like that. My dad was a big help, I’ve got my agent to talk to, while obviously the coaching staff were there for me too.”
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With defenders Ibrahima Sonko and Danny Collins quickly signed by manager Paul Jewell, Smith spent over four months watching from the sidelines. The return of loan players and injuries saw him return to the field for an FA Cup game at Hull on January 7 though and he hasn’t looked back since.
Starting the last 11 games, the centre-back has played an integral part in Town’s recent revival – thanks largely to the fact they have stopped conceding so many goals.
“There were doubts which crept into my mind earlier in the season,” said Smith, when asked if had worried about his Town future at any stage. “But now they’ve been put to bed.
“I knew I’d have to wait for my opportunity again and I was just preparing myself to take it when it came. Hopefully I’ve become a better player because of those experiences.”
Jewell, who is still to offer the soon to be out-of-contract Smith a new deal, said: “Tommy has shown a lot of character to come back. He is still a young lad and he has got a long way to go, but he has shown determination.
“He went to Colchester and it didn’t work for him there. He nearly went to Crawley on loan too, but he decided to stay here and fight for his place.
“I have no problem with Tommy’s character. He has done well in the last few games.”
Asked about his contract situation, Smith said: “I still haven’t spoken to the club about that yet.
“I’m just concentrating on my football and doing as well as I can for Ipswich.
“I’m settled in the area, Ipswich were my first club and I’d love to stay – but it’s not down to me.
“I just want to do as well as I can to get the manager’s attention and for him to want to keep me really.”