IT’S CITIZEN SMITH!
Striker Matt Smith looks to get some game time on loan at Bristol City
The 6ft 6ins Smith joined Bristol City on a two-month loan from Fulham this week, having played just 38 minutes for the Cottagers since his August transfer from Leeds.
The 25-year-old has had to come to terms with falling out of favour with the Whites’ owner Massimo Cellino, just days after signing a new three-year deal at Elland Road, as well as Cottagers chief Kit Symons, who has not handed Smith a starting berth since he saw red 18 minutes into his debut in a 3-0 defeat at Reading for a bad tackle.
His first outing for the Robins was also from the bench – a seven-minute cameo as his new club returned to the top of the tree with victory over Peterborough last weekend.
Fulham have not granted Bristol City permission to field Smith in the FA Cup this weekend, denying him the chance to repeat the heroics that saw him shoot to prominence with a double as Oldham dumped Liverpool out of the FA Cup in 2013, before he netted in the final minute to earn a replay against Everton in the next round.
But Smith is sure his time will come over a busy festive period to remind observers of his capabilities.
“It’s been a rollercoaster six months,” said Smith, who completed a degree in International Management with American Business Studies, before joining Oldham from Solihull Moors in 2011.
“I’ve gone from ticking along nicely at Leeds to Fulham and now Bristol. I’m not entirely sure how it’s happened, but that’s the nature of football. I still feel as though I’ve come a long way since 2011.
“It was only really on the back end of a good season in the Conference North that the opportunity to go into the game full-time arose. I’d had three job interviews, two in London.
“I was surprised to get a new contract at Leeds, because I’d heard vibes that the new owner was looking to move me on. When I got the contract I was delighted, I loved my time at Leeds.
“But three days after I signed I came into training and was told the owner had put six players on the transfer list, and I was one of them.
“I feel very fortunate that Fulham came in. They are a fantastic club with a brilliant set up and made me feel very welcome. I was devastated the way my debut went, since then the team has done well and I haven’t been able to get back in.
“I spoke a few times to Kit Symons regarding my lack of playing time. He was always honest and approachable and reassured me I was important to him, but we discussed the option of going out on loan.
“I felt I’d found my feet in the division and wasn’t sure what to make of a move away from the Championship at first, but Bristol City are effectively a club who should be in the Championship, so it’s been great since I’ve been here.
“It’s a great club and I have a terrific opportunity to really boost my confidence again.”
Smith’s biggest challenge over the next two months will be to break the partnership between Kieran Agard and Aaron Wilbraham that has brought 17 league goals already this term.
But the giant striker is ready to conquer his latest challenge.
“The team are where they are for a reason,” he added. “Everyone is firing, particularly Kieran and Aaron, but there are a lot of league games to come over the next two months, as well as the cup competitions, so I’m sure I’ll get my chance.
“It’s going well. It’s been easy to settle in, there is a terrific team spirit at the club. There is a feeling around the place they are on the verge of something special this season and, I think with the way things are set up, they should achieve their aim of promotion.”
TOWERING: Matt Smith, top, scores for Leeds against Burnley
SHORT STAY: Matt Smith sent off on his Fulham debut