The Monday Profile: Craig Mackail-Smith (with apologies to Scott Sinclair)
As the title above makes clear, I’ll start first with the apologies. Posting about a player who wasn’t involved in this afternoon’s rip-roarer feels like a missed opportunity, but having covered the hero of hat-trick proportions back in November it seems inappropriate to double take. Of course, Sinclair’s fellow tormentor of many a Championship defence Fabio Borini would be a fine substitute but I’ll admit that I only listened to today’s game on the radio, and still haven’t managed to see the Bolognan in person. Instead, then, I’ll focus on a player who was central in yesterday’s League 1 finale; a striker who can be expected to be seen lining up in a shirt adorned with Football League badges on both arms next season.
Or can he? While listening to the same radio yesterday afternoon, I learned for the first time that Peterborough’s play-off final against Huddersfield was almost certainly going to be Craig Mackail-Smith’s last outing in Posh blue, his single strike the final that supporters may witness from the fabled ‘Holy Trinity’, given that George Boyd is also lining up his next move. I asked where the man of the double-barrel may be off to on twitter shortly after the final whistle and was upbraided for my insensitivity, but Mackail-Smith practically said his farewells in his post-match interview, putting fans out of their misery with that sequence of words every supporter dreads, “we’ll see what happens”.
Having taken a look at various stories, it would be easier to list those clubs that Mackail-Smith hasn’t been linked to, but Celtic and Everton emerge as destinations that may tickle the fancy of the man who shares a home town with Geri Halliwell. What can supporters of these sides expect from this, the player who headed up a strike force that knocked in 106 goals in this year’s regular season? That he can bang them in should be fairly obvious. Thirty-five strikes in all competitions this term marks a halcyon year for Mackail-Smith, who improved on his previous season best of twenty-six in 2008-09. Such a hit rate owes not only to an abundant locker of finishing, but also to some of the deftest movement that League 1 is likely to see. In one of many recent lows for this writer, Mackail-Smith not so much owned my team’s back-four but slapped their no-good behinds with his tireless running off-the-ball, and was able to create an embarrassing number of openings for himself.
He ended up taking two of those opportunities, but in truth should have scored at least another. Thankfully for me, Mackail-Smith might even have been described as wasteful which leaves me to think that hopes of a move to the top-flight might be a little presumptuous on his part. A quiet season in the Championship last term as Posh nosedived to 24th place at the first second flight verifies this perhaps, but if Jermaine Beckford’s progress at Goodison Park is an indicator, then the jump isn’t unfeasible. Since I saw Mackail-Smith in action, international honours have been secured and it’s amazing what such a personal achievement can do for your confidence. What with the Scottish link, Celtic sounds like a tenable move but should the Toffees or another Premiership club come calling, then I’d gladly eat my words if Mackail-Smith makes the step. Posh fans who have witnessed his development more closely may disagree with my reservations but, either way, they surely won’t begrudge Mackail-Smith his move.