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Player profiles:
Tommy Smith
Position: Striker
From: Youth team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: About half the player we'd hoped
Past profiles: May 2001, July 2000


Okay - so maybe that's unfair. Tommy's at least got a couple of goals this year.... Our not-so-new number nine has, in patches, showed the form we know he's capable of. He's still fast, surprisingly strong on the ball, relishes taking his man on on the outside, and fits well into the team, particularly alongside Heidar. His work-rate's good, he brings people into the game - all in all, he'd probably make most fans' first-choice XI, hopefully alongside the Iceman, Scott Fitzgerald's late run notwithstanding.

But his form has been seriously up and down. At the start of the season he was seriously mediocre, he came back on the boil a bit in the Grimsby game, tailed off again during the run against Ipswich, Bradford et al., was very good again during the cup run, and pretty much vanished thereafter. It's quite hard to explain - his confidence still seems strong, as it should be, he finished our joint second-highest goalscorer, and there's an awful lot more to his game now than when he broke into the side back in our Premiership season. Despite all this, he's been no better than average across the course of the season, and that's not qualified with a "by his standards" - that's by the standards of the rest of the team.

And it's no longer fair to describe Tommy as "still only promising" - neither to himself nor to the side, not least because that implies comparisons with someone like Wayne Andrews, and Tommy's improved every year since breaking into the first team. The problem is perhaps just that we expected, and expect, so much of him, and his development seems to have plateaued recently. The partnership with Helguson is undoubtedly a strong one - but I for one was expecting Tommy's name to be up in lights by now, to see him dazzling commentators and devastating First Division defences, and neither of these have happened with any regularity. His last player profile included the comment: "One only hopes that the fears of the many will not be realised, and Tommy is not a commodity that is sold to make way for a less talented journeyman pro while there is still a transfer fee to be realised from his contract.", and at the time I heartily agreed with it. Now, though it pains me to say it, he's out of contract at the moment, and I find myself thinking the unthinkable - that it might be better for him, as well as for us, if someone comes in with an offer worth the name for him, and I wrote that even before Fitzgerald's late form.

If so, though, I'd want a sell-on clause, because he could still be brilliant.

Nick Grundy
Last updated: May 2003