GLAD TO BE BACK
Ipswich defender Tommy Smith puts his injury agony behind him
CONSIDERING he thought his career might be over earlier this season, it is no surprise to see Tommy Smith enjoying himself now he is back in the Ipswich team.
And the defender is determined to put the smiles back on fans’ faces, too, as the Tractor Boys bid to build for next season with a strong finish to this campaign.
Smith went in for what he thought was a routine back injection in September but was soon told he needed surgery and there was a ten per cent chance he might never play football again.
That rocked the 26-year-old – who is nearing a decade as a professional at Ipswich – but five months later he came off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Norwich City in February before starting, and lasting an hour, in a stalemate with Wolves nine days later.
Those two results were part of an eight-match unbeaten run ahead of yesterday’s game at Cardiff.
Though, with seven of those games being draws, the heat is still on manager Mick McCarthy.
Smith is hoping to lift the mood of the Tractor Boys, who are languishing in the bottom half of the table, and is already focusing on improvements next term.
“I am delighted to be back fit,” said New Zealand international Smith, who was attending a Kit for Kids activity run by Wickes, official partner of the EFL.
“The injury made me realise how lucky we are and it also helps you take stock – one bad challenge or one incident and your career is over.
“It is great to be back fit and now I am hoping to enjoy the end of the season, finish strongly and really build up the momentum for next season.
“It is always frustrating being out injured and not playing. You just want to be out there playing and helping your team-mates.
“And it is even harder when the team aren’t doing well, because you’re thinking ‘would it be different if I was there?’.
“We are much more solid at the back now but we need to start winning games and turning those draws into three points.
“We need to get ourselves away from any relegation danger and build for next season.
“We need to get that feelgood factor back.”
While on the sidelines, Smith wasn’t twiddling his thumbs as he continued his distance learning course in exercise and sports science through Manchester Metropolitan University and turned his hand to co-commentary for BBC Suffolk during Ipswich’s 2-2 draw with Lincoln City in the FA Cup.
But football is, and will remain, his number one priority for the foreseeable future.
“Being injured does give you a chance to do other things, so I have been able to get out and about and support the club in other ways,” added Smith.
“I did a bit of co-commentating as it was always something I fancied doing and I did enjoy it. But it was so nerve-racking. I am way more comfortable walking out in front of thousands of people playing football than I am speaking into a microphone!
“I have also been doing a distance learning degree that I am coming to the end of now. The end of a long road.
“It has been six years in the making, but my dissertation is due next month. It has been tough to fit it all in with football and training, but it has been enjoyable and I’m glad I’ve done it.
“It has always been important to me and now, hopefully, I have something to fall back on when my career comes to an end, though I hope that is not for a while yet!”
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