Leeds United: Striker Smith backs ‘proven’ boss Mac

Matt Smith
Matt Smith
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Matt Smith has offered his backing to Brian McDermott and said he would be able to hold his own head up high at the end of the season after sparking Leeds United’s win at Birmingham with his 12th goal of an encouraging campaign.

The towering striker helped ensure United ended their away league programme for the second successive season on a winning note with a 3-1 success at relegation-haunted Blues, the club’s second consecutive triumph on their travels after some truly dark episodes on the road during 2014.

The three points was a lift not just for the loyal fans who travelled down to the second city, but also McDermott, with Smith calling for the Whites boss to be given the chance to “do what he does” as speculation continues regarding his future under new owner Massimo Cellino.

Cellino has been in charge at Elland Road since buying out Gulf Finance House at the start of this month and while he has yet to clarify the 53-year-old’s future, he told the YEP at the weekend that he currently had other priorities to tackle.

Cellino went onto express sympathy with what McDermott has had to contend with behind the scenes in 2013-14, with the club ending a chaotic season at home to Derby this weekend, a match which is likely to be followed by widespread changes of personnel at Elland Road.

One player who will definitely be staying put is Smith, signed on a free transfer from Oldham and someone who can lay claim to being his manager’s most successful signing, one of only two Leeds players whose goals are in double figures for the season.

The 24-year-old admits he has been pleased with his own form and the club’s run of three wins from four games – with it no coincidence that is has arrived during a time when clarity has been provided behind-the-scenes situation following the arrival of Cellino.

Smith said: “It’s satisfying.

“Once there’s stability and clarity in the club, that’s when you can take the club forward.

“In the midst of chaos, it’s extremely difficult to stay focused on the most important thing – when you cross the white line.

“You’re playing guessing games half the time and it does have an effect, so you can only really judge once the sturdy foundations are laid and the manager can do what he does, because he’s got a proven track record at this level of taking teams up.

“You saw the strides we made in the first half of the season in us being there or thereabouts. But since the Sheffield Wednesday game, things took a dramatic turn and all chaos ensured and it’s been trying to steer the ship ever since.

“Now we’ve got Massimo and clarity, hopefully we can go forward now.”

Saturday was a special day for Smith back in a place he knows well in Birmingham, his home city, with his father Ian having also been on the books at St Andrew’s during his own playing career.

Smith’s father, who is a doctor, was a member of the Blues squad who reached the 1975 FA Cup final, with his son having certainly dined out at their expense this term, netting three goals in two games against them.

His weekend opener was a classic centre-forward’s header, with the powerhouse striker able to reflect on taking plenty on the personal front from an impressive 2013-14 which has seen him gradually make his mark on the pitch and in the dressing room.

His aim now being to be regular starter for Leeds next term, while also signing off the current campaign on a winning note against United’s bogey side Derby on Saturday lunch-time.

On his weekend strike, Smith said: “I was happy to get my head on the end of one. I was saying to the boys at half-time that we needed more quality in the final third.

“Any tall targetman is going to tell you that you need good ammo coming in from either flank, and into good areas.

“We’ve been prone at times to throwing in balls from deep and it’s difficult to get any power or angle them or get goals. But the quality was there and that’s what I thrive off.

“The goal was one more satisfying ones because I was disappointed not to head in a goal on Monday. It was getting a bit frustrating that since Millwall I don’t feel I’ve been getting the chances I should have been getting.

“We will just try our best to finish the season as strong as possible and mount a few wins. Although Saturday will be a tough game because they (Derby) will want to keep momentum going.

“Personally, for the most part in my 18 months at Oldham, I was a sub so I’m used to having to make an impact. The next stage of my development is to start regularly. I’ve had that this year and want to take that on and be a proper regular in the future.”

Smith has certainly come a long way from his days in the non-league backwaters of Solihull Moors and Redditch, having been given his big chance in the Football League by Oldham in 2011.

With impact on the pitch has come presence and a voice off it with Smith’s mature attitude and work ethic having impressed many within Elland Road circles in his first season in the Championship.

He said: “It’s an attitude that I’ve had with football, at university or in non-league. I’ve never, ever felt sorry for myself and I think that’s fundamental.

“There’s going to be a time when you’re going to be on the bench or dropped and you think ‘I never deserve this I should be out there playing’ but I’ve always kept the same mindset and prepare for the game the same way. There won’t be any difference.

“My work ethic and desire is to do my best in any circumstances, not just when I’m starting. I think that’s stood me in good stead; I’ve never let my head drop and I’ve always seen myself as an asset in Plan A or Plan B. Although I’d rather be Plan A.”

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