Tommy Smith signs new deal at Ipswich but admits: I almost quit

TOMMY Smith has revealed he contemplated quitting the Blues before his Portman Road career saw a dramatic U-turn.

The New Zealand international yesterday completed the formalities on a new two-year contract, with an option of a 12-month extension.

In a season of massive ups and down for the entire club, Smith’s career has followed suit after he was part of the team that suffered embarrassingly heavy defeats – and also saw him sent off after just 71 seconds.

But following an injury to Damien Delaney in the FA Cup defeat at Hull in January, the young centre-back never looked back – starting the last 22 games and impressing once-sceptical supporters.

And it was enough to prove to Blues boss Paul Jewell that the former academy graduate was worth a new contract that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2014.

The defender said: “It was a year of ups and downs but I was pleased with how I performed at the back end of the season – and how we played as a team as well. There were definite signs of progress and I think we reaped the benefits of having a settled side.

“When I wasn’t in the squad for a few months, it crossed my mind that I may have to move on. That’s not something I wanted to happen. I got my head down though, worked hard and changed the manager’s views of me. I’m obviously delighted to have signed the contract and sorted out my future.”

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Smith is facing a hectic summer of World Cup qualifications and then the London Olympics, but he is already targeting a massive improvement at club level after Ipswich finished a disappointing 15th in the Championship.

He said: “It’s important we start next year well. We’ve not done that for a while but there are a lot of positives we can take from the way we finished the season and I’m looking forward to being involved.”

Smith, who has won nine caps for New Zealand, has been named in the All Whites squad for friendlies against Honduras and El Salvador later this month before they travel to the Solomon Islands for three quick-fire matches next month as part of the Oceania Nations Cup, the first stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The busy centre-back is then expected to be named in the New Zealand Under-23s squad – the Oly Whites - who play Belarus, Brazil and Egypt at the Olympics.

Given such a hectic schedule, it would be a surprise if Smith did not need time to recuperate and his involvement in Town’s first match in next season’s Championship will be called into question.

Jewell currently only has Smith and Delaney as his two recognised centre-backs and Smith’s summer of football only intensifies the need for at least one new centre back.