Kiwis' loss as Tommy settles on England

NEW Zealand or England? It was a 'no-brainer' for exciting young Ipswich prospect Tommy Smith who, at 17, is already being talked about in terms of a first-team squad call-up.

By Derek Davis

NEW Zealand or England?

It was a 'no-brainer' for exciting young Ipswich prospect Tommy Smith who, at 17, is already being talked about in terms of a first-team squad call-up.

Central defender Smith was due to join the England under-17 squad for the European Championships in Belgium, but a calf injury has forced him to miss out.

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But the strapping 17-year-old, who won the Dale Roberts' Memorial Award for Academy Player of the Year, had no doubts where his loyalty lay.

He said: “It was an easy choice for me really. I was born in England, Macclesfield, and I have always felt English, even though I lived in New Zealand for a few years.”

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Smith moved to the other side of the world with his parents and lived mainly in Auckland and, although he has the physique of a rugby forward, he stuck with football.

After being spotted by a holidaying Blues coach, Smith came to Portman Road for trials and accepted into the Academy very quickly.

His form for the young Blues soon saw him called up for England and he impressed in the qualifiers early this year as he took the step up in his giant stride.

Smith said: “I went into the international scene wondering 'would I be good enough' but I slotted in quite well and the rest of the group helped me.”

Arsenal had also become aware of him but he had already made his mind up about Ipswich after they made him feel so welcome.

Smith said: “One of the Community coaches was on holiday and knew my coach, who suggested he came to watch me.

“He then said he would fix up a trial, which he did, and I came across to England.

“I heard that Arsenal were interested in me but my heart was set on Ipswich.”

“I knew from my period on trial what a good club it was and how everyone looks after each other here.

“I have fitted in well and the season has gone better than I could have dreamed of.

“I never expected to be a regular in the reserves, and I definitely never thought I would be playing for England.”

Smith's form not only scooped him the Dale Roberts award but has pushed him to the cusp of a first-team squad call up.

He said: “Winning the award is a great honour, I know what Dale did for the club and what he means to Ipswich Town so to win this is a great honour.

“I hope to push into the first-team squad, if not this season then next, and then to help Ipswich get promoted into the Premier League.

“It is not up to me whether I get into the squad or not, but I feel I'm ready.”

Ironically, his inclusion could be down to injuries to senior players he admires.

Smith said: “I have looked up to Jason De Vos, literally and figuratively. Also, Richard Naylor and Fabian Wilnis because they have been here so long and I can talk to them and call on their experience.

“They are approachable and it all helps me to improve on a daily basis.”

If his rapid improvement continues then Smith will soon be heralded as the next big thing at Ipswich Town - literally.

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