Leeds United: Smith determined to avoid ‘second season syndrome’

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MATT SMITH insists there is plenty more to come from him this forthcoming season – after a 2013-14 campaign in which his form was one of just a few redeeming features for Leeds United fans.

The United forward took to the surroundings of the Championship impressively last term following his move from Oldham Athletic last summer, netting 13 times and forming a successful partnership with strike partner and friend Ross McCormack.

With the Scot keen to move on after tabling a transfer request, plenty more weight of expectation next season is set to thrust onto the 25-year-old’s shoulders in 2014-15.

Smith has admitted that he would personally be ‘devastated’ if McCormack left the club, with the duo plundering 42 goals between them last season.

But equally he remains confident he can carry on from where he left off last year and avoid the dreaded ‘second-season syndrome’ in his second campaign in United colours.

Smith said: “I know there’s a lot more to come from me.

“As a team, we underachieved last season, there’s no denying that and it’s something we will look to rectify this season as we want to give the fans something more to sing about as it really was a season of two halves.

“In one half of the season, we just weren’t good enough.

“But I did feel like the fans took to me, which as a player is very important, especially when you have a fanbase as fierce and passionate as Leeds.

“I felt personally playing at home that the fans warmed to me and that definitely gives you an extra lift walking out of the tunnel at three o’clock.”

Smith finds himself working with a new face at the United helm in head coach Dave Hockaday following the exit of the man who brought him to Elland Road in Brian McDermott, who departed the club by mutual consent at the end of May.

The 6ft 6in striker enjoyed a close working relationship with McDermott, with the former Reading chief taking time to text Smith after he left Leeds to tell him to kick on next season, even without his presence in the dug-out any more.

On a personal level, Smith admits it was tough to see McDermott leave, but equally he has been impressed by the new man Hockaday, with his own experiences in non-league football with the likes of Solihull Moors having taught him not to read anything into the fact the 56-year-old’s only experience of frontline management is a mixed spell at Conference outfit Forest Green.

Smith said: “It’s the nature of football and it’s a very ruthless industry. I was absolutely devastated when Brian left and felt very indebted for the opportunity he gave me in the Championship.

“He showed faith to play me last season and I had a very good working relationship with him and I really respected him as a person and manager.

“It was tough to see him leave. But that’s the nature of football and you move on.

“I sent him a courtesy text to say thank you very much for all the work he gave me as I really felt I had come on leaps and bounds since July and he sent me a lovely text back.

“I have taken a lot of heart from it. It was progression from the season before and that’s all I really look for – to continue to improve as a player.

“We now have a new man in charge and he (Hockaday) is very organised and professional and wants the best for the team and to get the best out of the players.”

PERFECT RESPONSE: From Leeds United captain Liam Cooper, pictured right, celebrating the only goal of the game with Gjanni Alioski, centre, and Gaetano Berardi.

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