The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Bai­ley

PORT VALE boss Bruno Ribeiro be­lieves Nathan Smith is set for the Pre­mier League in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture af­ter pre­sent­ing his 20-year-old star­let with the EFL Young Player of the Month award.

It was only by chance that Smith, who spent last year on loan at Torquay United, was given his chance in the first-team this sea­son af­ter in­jury forced Ribeiro’s hand.

Now, though, he is one of the first names on the teamsheet af­ter seiz­ing his chance at cen­tre-back.

“I’m very happy with him,” said Ribeiro, who has also re­warded Smith with a three-year con­tract ex­ten­sion. “For me, he is al­ready a Cham­pi­onship player. In a few years, then Pre­mier League.

“He is fan­tas­tic. He is strong, only 20 years old and he is still learn­ing ev­ery day. He works very hard at his game.”

The Valiants con­ceded just two goals in Au­gust un­der Smith’s watch – and the young­ster also scored the win­ner against Rochdale.

“This was the high end of what we were plan­ning when I re­ported back for pre-sea­son in June,” ad­mit­ted Smith.

“The tar­get was just to get in the first team, play some games and maybe go out on loan. This has ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions.”

PRAISE: Nathan Smith

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