After being named on the bench on a handful of occasions last season, the young midfielder was handed his Swindon Town debut as a substitute at Preston North End in April 2015. Since then, he has added a further two sub appearances to his CV, the last of which came at Crewe Alexandra in September. Introduced at half-time, the 18-year-old cracked home a thunderbolt from the edge of the box to draw Town level at Gresty Road and set the platform for a 3-1 victory. His efforts in helping to turn the game around for Swindon even earned him a place in the Sky Bet Football League Team of the Week.
Smith has to wait until the annual Football League Awards evening, held for the first time this year in Manchester, to find out if he has been crowned the winner. All category winners - which recognise achievements both on and off the pitch – will be announced at a gala ceremony on Sunday 17th April – the same date on which The Football League was officially formed in Manchester back in 1888.
Speaking to R&W last week, the youngster explained why it meant so much to him to be nominated.
“It means a great deal to be fair,” he grinned. “To get recognised for something that I’ve put a lot of hard work into. Not just on the pitch but off it as well with my college work and coaching - it all adds up. Me being involved with the first team too has gone a long way and for me to be recognised by the Football League and the LFE, to be shortlisted and to go to the awards is massive because that alone is huge. To be involved is going to be a huge achievement for me.”
Smith penned his first academy contract at the County Ground when another local boy, Michael Pook was plying his trade in the heart of Town’s midfield. Nearly a decade on the youngster described his journey from grass roots to the manicured pitches of senior league football.
“I started at Blunsdon, my local team, then when I was eight I first went to a training session,” he recalled. “I didn’t really enjoy it, I wasn’t very good either, I scored a couple of own goals so didn’t really want to go back but my parents wanted me to go back so I stuck at it. I wouldn’t say I was a naturally gifted player but always had that work ethic and wanted to win. I signed at Under-9s - that was with John Hathaway one of my earlier coaches, Tom Hartley and Ian Palmer as well.
“The only person still here is Ryan Wood. He’s been here with me since U8s. We’re the only two that have been here for ten years now. We’re both Swindon boys which is good for the club. Players from the local area at the club represents the club really well.”
One of a number of academy products to be given their debuts over the past few seasons, Smith added that it was a big confidence boost for all the lads in the academy having a management team that were prepared to give the club’s youngsters a chance in the team.
“We’ve seen it with Mark Cooper last year and with Luke (Williams) now,” he said. “they’re interested in youth and it’s great to see. There’s an opportunity there and they’re willing to put 16/17 year olds in if they’re good enough and I think that’s great. If they are good enough, why not? If they can go out and prove they’re worthy of being in the squad then put them in. Mark did that for me and I appreciate that but with Luke now in charge he’s always asking how I am and where I’m at. That interest goes a long way. It shows that they care which is what you want to see especially from your first team manager.”
Finally, he added: “I’d also like to say thank you to Scott Lindsey. He plays a massive part in bringing youth players through the academy to the first team. For me personally, over the two-year scholarship, he’s developed me as a player making me ready for the step up and always believed in me since I started working with him. He’s one of the reasons I am where I am today.”