Since a permanent move to Nyewood Lane last summer, Smith has become an integral part of the club, bagging more than a third of Bognor’s goals this season. The striker has found the back of the net 25 times in all competitions.
As a means of attracting Smith to the club, manager Jack Pearce reassured the confident youngster he’d be the focal point of their attacking play and would experience regular first team football – something he lacked during his loan spell at Cork City.
Eager to repay the favour, Smith has relished the responsibility of scoring goals and believes he should have chalked up even more this season and admits coach Robbie Blake is right when he says his tally should be even higher than it is.
Smith said: “To be honest, Blakey and I chatted a couple of times and we agreed that I probably should be over 30 by now. My finishing wasn’t that great at the beginning of the year, especially when the team was under-performing. Although that had a psychological effect, I should’ve separated myself from it and still scored the goals."
Smith used to operate as an attacking midfielder at Pompey until his previous boss, Kenny Jackett, identified him as a natural forward. Two years on and still keen to hone his craft as the No9 at Bognor and Smith stated just how valuable regular playing time has been towards his development.
“It wasn’t particularly strenuous on the training ground; obviously I had to work on my hold-up play in a couple of sessions. It’s been more about learning during the games, because you really don’t know what it’s like until you’re thrown in,” he said.
It seems former Premier League goal-getter, Blake has played a key role in the youngster’s development. Smith has found himself wanting to drop deeper to receive the ball at times this season, but Blake has been urging him to play off the shoulder of the opposition’s line, run in behind and remain patient for opportunities.
During the lockdown, aside from going on daily runs to maintain his fitness, Smith has been studying footage of Berbatov, taking note of how effortlessly the Bulgarian used to score in spells at CSKA Sofia, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham, Manchester United, Fulham, Monaco, PAOK and Kerala Blasters.
“He’s very different to me. I’m always breaking my neck to get into the box and he’s just jogging around, waiting for the ball to come to him. It’s all to do with thinking about the situation before I charge in, so that’s probably an area where I still need to learn a bit more,” said Smith.
Thanks to his tenacious work ethic and insatiable appetite for scoring goals, the future looks bright for the youngster. Although there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the world of football at the moment, Smith is hoping to climb the divisions in the coming years.
“I’ve seen players in League One and I’ve seen a couple of players go to the Championship. I’d like to think I can achieve that level in a few years. Obviously, that depends on how you develop and how you play,” he said.
While Rocks fans will be supportive of Smith’s ambition, they’ll be eager to see him wear Bognor’s No9 shirt for the foreseeable future and continue his prolific record in front of goal.
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