There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Derbycountyblog land on Thursday, because that was the day when news broke that John Brayford had been sold to the Redbirds of Cardiff. Alas and indeed alack.
These ill-tidings put a serious crimp in my traditional pre-season optimism, but the club made it clear instantly that new signings would follow shortly and – unlike in days of yore, when promises were broken too often – we learned within 48 hours that a deal had been agreed for Brayford’s (long-term temporary) replacement.
Certain Twitterers who are smarter than the average bear managed to divine the identity of the new man – Adam Smith, of Tottenham Hotspur and England U’21s – very quickly, given a helping hand by Steve Nicholson, who started following Smith the same day* and the club, who said that the player involved had previous experience at Championship level.
It became the worst-kept secret in the land after that, although I did enjoy the silly counter-rumours that flew around, naming Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan and Martin Kelly (neither of whom have played in the Championship) and José Bosingwa, whose coincidental release from Queens Park Rangers on Saturday led to possibly the most hilarious ‘rumour’ I’ve heard this summer.
The seemingly America-based Spurs blog Cartilage Free Captain has provided a piece on Smith that provides useful background, but for a closer view, it’s worth hearing the thoughts of Chris Miller (@windyCOYS), a blogger who focuses on the Spurs youth set-up. Chris kindly took the time to pen me the following short profile of Smith, a player he clearly rates.
I first saw Adam Smith play when he was a 16 year-old. He was a tenacious, attacking right back, who ran for 90 minutes and wanted to hit the byline as often as he could. He overlapped, he took on his man, he shot from distance and he also had decent recovery pace.
Not much has changed in the past six years, although he’s now capped at every level for England from U’16 to U’21, has featured regularly in the Championship and now has plenty of experience at left-back too.
Smith has, depending on your viewpoint, either benefited from or been a victim of Spurs’ policy of sending young players out on loan, rather than persisting with a reserve team (prior to the new Under-21 league being created). As a result, he has played for seven different loan clubs in total over the past four years, winning plaudits at most, but particularly at Bournemouth and MK Dons.
At Millwall last season, Smith found himself out of the side towards the end of the season, making just five starts in their last 16 matches. His total of 26 starts and two substitute appearances for them, however, constituted a season of progression.
I had expected Spurs to sell Kyle Naughton and keep Smith in-house as back-up for Kyle Walker, a role which he seemed suited for, due to his natural attacking instincts. However, after he was left out of the first-team travel party for Hong Kong – instead used in the Development Squad team against Kingstonian – it became clear that this was not going to be the case.
Smith has a three year contract at Spurs and a strong season on-loan at Derby County could see him come back next season as Walker’s back-up. But the fact that he’s not being trusted at this point in his career suggests to me that perhaps his future is seen to lie elsewhere.
* NB – Nicholson also started following Coventry defender Cyrus Christie on the same day. Christie is about to head into the final year of his contract and the problems at (or near) Cov are very well known. He’s also following the young left winger Josh Thomas, who has played twice on trial for Derby XIs recently after being released by ‘them up the A52’.