The Monday Profile: Tommy Smith
Italy’s second round exit at the hands of South Korea in the 2002 World Cup saw the Azzurri’s chickens come home deliciously to roost. Offside decisions may have played their part but after decades of shirt pulling for both club and country, an Italian player was finally penalized; it being significant that this would be at the highest stage. Hence, yesterday’s tug on Daniele De Rossi by Tommy Smith was rightfully punished, even if the former, a man with a dark side to make Dr. Jekyll blush, added to his nefarious reputation in World Cups with a blatant plunge.
But Smith’s conceding of the spot kick did nothing to detract from a dizzily memorable display. Left sided, he slotted wonderfully into an old fashioned three man central defensive trio, performing equally as heroically as his more experienced cohorts, Winston Reid and Ryan Nelsen. Tall and athletic, the Ipswich man is still only 20. His past couple of years at Portman Road have been stop-start but youth means he should avoid the fate of Chris Birchall and El-Hadj Diouf, men whose post-World Cup careers failed to confirm their promise.
Despite spending his youth in Aotearoa, Smith is Macclesfield born and started out in the Tractor Boys’ academy. His opportunities since 2007 have been limited and he has enjoyed spells on loan at Stevenage and Brentford. The latter in particular proved to be productive — 8 appearances this past winter helped the Bees consolidate a more than respectable first season back in League One.
Injuries to hand and foot have hampered the All White in Suffolk Blue, but he’ll hope to be back as first choice come August — Damien Delaney and Gareth McAuley are an eminently shiftable current partnership at the back. For the moment though, the ex-England youngster and Wickes Young Apprentice Award nominee will be pondering the wiles of Nelson Haedo Valdes and the unthinkable possibility of a Second Round berth.