Smith wants a kick-start
Date published: 01 March 2012
MATT Smith looks to win possession for Athletic against Colchester United at Boundary Park in midweek.
MATT Smith may have to start shopping for a tight-fitting suit with attached cape soon.
Athletic's giant striker has only started three league matches in this, his first campaign as a fully-fledged professional.
And the number of times he has been sent on to the field with the message to make himself a hero — he has a total of 27 appearances as a substitute this season — would have left less switched-on men with the impression that they possess as-yet undiscovered superpowers.
In an unforgiving introduction to life at Boundary Park, the last of the 22-year-old forward's three goals for Athletic came in a 1-1 draw at Chesterfield on Monday, January 2.
Life is tough in the pro game: It was also his last start for the club.
To get to the stage where he is regularly in the opening line-up, Smith accepts that he will need to prove his worth.
That surely means, at some stage, fulfilling the role of goalscoring, game-changing superstar from the replacements' bench.
"It is my first season in the professional game and it is new to me so I look to the more experienced players around to help guide me through," said the former Solihull Moors player, one of two players in the squad – Robbie Simpson is the other — in possession of a university degree, having graduated from Manchester University in International Management with American Business Studies.
"You also have to work hard and have confidence in your own ability,” he added.
"If you look at the number of appearances I have had, I am up in joint-fourth when compared to the rest of the squad.
"But if you look a bit deeper, I have had three league starts and that paints a different picture.
"I am gaining more and more experience. Time on the pitch has been limited and in my first season, I am pleased with the progress I am making.
"At the same time, I would like to play more games. I have to earn that right — it isn't going to be handed to me on a plate — so I have to prove to the manager that I am capable when I get the chance."
Smith reprised his role as a late substitute as Athletic tried, without success, to eke out a victory over a robust Colchester outfit on Tuesday.
Ahead through a goal from Keanu Marsh-Brown — one of five players in the side aged 20 or under — a late equaliser was conceded to Anthony Wordsworth as the home side tired.
"We worked hard as a team, but it was sloppy conceding from a set-play so close to the end," Smith added.
"It is very disappointing, as it is two points lost rather than one gained.
"The management at half-time told us to keep playing two-touch football and I think some of us lost focus on that, taking too many touches and losing our way and our shape.
"Aside from their goal, we defended really well which makes it so disappointing.
"Young Tarky (James Tarkowski) was amazing once again and really held his own for someone so young.
"As a group we are very disappointed. But the main thing now is to regroup, refocus and look ahead to Sheffield United (on Saturday."
Smith's education, and that of the rest of a young Athletic team, continues where it began this weekend at Bramall Lane.
"It is a massive game," he said, of the test against a side currently second in the table. "There will be a big crowd and a great atmosphere and those are the games you want to play in.
"We need to brush up on the things that didn't go well in the second half (against Colchester) and look to pick up points.
"They are a former Premier League side who are a big club. I remember playing against them on the opening day of the season and have fond memories from that.
"It should be a great day — but we will play the game and not the occasion."