Smith: US Move Has Been a Great Experience
Tuesday, 6th Nov 2018 14:56
Ex-Blues central defender Tommy Smith says his move to the MLS has been a great experience despite the Colorado Rapids, who he joined from Town in January, having had a disappointing year.
The Rapids finished second-bottom of the Western Conference in the MLS regular season which ended last month with Smith netting a late winner in a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in their final match, his fourth goal of the campaign.
“For me personally it’s been a great experience, a lot different to playing Championship football,” Smith told BBC Radio Suffolk’s Life’s a Pitch on Saturday (1hr 25mins 52secs).
“Results didn’t go as planned but a great experience and hopefully next year we can build on that and be successful.
“It’s a great place, Denver itself as a city is fantastic. The climate’s great, we play through the summer so the weather’s always really nice and the mountains are only an hour away so my wife skis a little bit, she’s been up into the mountains a fair bit.
“We’ve had lots of visitors come over and they’ve said nothing but good things about the place, so we’re really lucky in that regard.”
The New Zealand international’s return to Suffolk at the weekend led to inevitable talk about the possibility of him coming back to Town on an off-season loan, but the 28-year-old was quick to dismiss the suggestion he might rejoin the Blues.
“No, as much as I’d love to, I don’t think the rules allow it these days and to be honest my body needs a break," he said.
"I’ve been going for two and a half years solid now without a break so the body needs a bit of a break.”
He says he has followed Town’s fortunes since his move to the States: “Obviously, I’ve still got friends there, not just players but staff all around the club. It’s always the first result I look for.”
Smith says he’s had good reports about about new manager Paul Lambert from one of his Rapids team-mates although doesn’t know him personally.
“Only from playing against his teams, unfortunately!” he recalled ruefully. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. I’ve got a team-mate, Jack Price, who used to play for Wolves under him and he’s said nothing but good things. Hopefully he can dig us out of of this hole.”
The Macclesfield-born defender says football culture isn’t the same in the US as it is in the UK.
“It’s massively different, it’s the number five sport over there so that in itself is really different,” he said.
“No one really knows who you are, you can walk around Denver and not have a care in the world, which is great really - you can let your hair down from time to time!
“And obviously it’s been great seeing the other sports out there. In Denver we’re lucky to have all the major sports so I’ve really dove into the culture of those sports as well. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Smith says the strength of the league has surprised him: “It’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be, especially the attacking players.
“You get DPs, Designated Players, in the MLS where you can pay them any amount of money and that’s usually spent on attackers.
“So it’s been a tough job for me this year trying to cope with players like Zlatan, Rooney, Giovinco at Toronto, you’re coming up against high calibre players.
“And it’s only getting better, more and more players are going over there in their prime, there are a lot of good Central and South American players, as well as good American players that people don’t give due recognition to. I’m sure the league will grow and grow in years to come.”
Smith is now looking forward to some downtime before the 2019 MLS campaign gets under way, including a rare opportunity to spend Christmas with family.
“Pre-season starts towards the end of January, I’ve got a little bit of time off catching up with family and friends and it will be nice to actually enjoy a Christmas for once,” he added.
“It will be strange, I’m so used to being involved in games, looking forward to that Boxing Day match, so it’ll be strange but I’m getting the chance to go to New Zealand to visit my family for Christmas, so that’ll be great.”
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