EDS & Academy

Smith relishing Checkatrade Trophy experience

FOCUSED: Matt Smith in training.
A ‘massive eye-opener’ is how Matt Smith describes Manchester City U21s’ experience in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.

The young Blues are back in action against Bradford City on Tuesday evening, having beaten Rotherham United on penalties in their opening fixture.

Seventeen-year-old Smith has been a regular in Simon Davies’ Premier League 2 side this season, but the opportunity to test himself against seasoned professionals in a first team environment, which the cup competition provides, is invaluable.

“I think it’s a massive eye-opener for all of us as to what we can achieve in football,” he said.

“There wasn’t a massive crowd against Rotherham but it was still a great experience.

“They were singing and the City away fans were there as well. You want to do that week in week out and play in front of crowds and we don’t always get to experience that in the Premier League 2.

“For me especially, it’s really motivated me and made me realise how much I want to be a footballer. I want to do that week in week out.”

City go into Tuesday’s tie on the back of a convincing 4-1 win over Derby County.

Smith wasn’t involved in the Academy Stadium victory, but his combination of steel and subtlety has been a mainstay of the Blues' midfield for much of the season.

WATCH: Highlights: EDS overcome Rotherham on penalties

As willing to throw himself into a tackle as he is likely to unlock a defence with a probing pass, the Welsh U21 admits that while it’s taken time, he is comfortable in both defensive and offensive midfield roles.

“When I joined the Club I was more of an attacking player but as I’ve matured I’ve realised I’ve got to do a job defensively,” he explained.

“So whether the gaffer picks me at number six or number eight, I’m comfortable and happy doing either.

“The movement of some of the lads is fantastic so it just makes it easier for us in midfield. Sometimes you look up and you’ve got so many different options.

“It’s really enjoyable.”

A first goal for Wales U21s was something else for the youngster to enjoy during the most recent international break.

Beating two defenders, he fired home in the 3-1 win in Lichtenstein for a landmark goal and just like in the Checkatrade Trophy, he’s finding the international arena a brilliant learning environment.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to score and great to get the win as well,” recalled Smith.

“Some of the lads I’m playing with have played 50 games in the Football League so in terms of professionalism, it’s a different type of environment.

“You watch them and how they prepare and how they work before and after the game in that professional manner and you learn a lot about yourself.”

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