Soccer: All White Smith to stay at Ipswich

By Kris Shannon

Tommy Smith has earned a new two-year contract at Ipswich Town. Photo / Getty Images.
Tommy Smith has earned a new two-year contract at Ipswich Town. Photo / Getty Images.

All Whites defender Tommy Smith has been rewarded for his form at Ipswich Town with a new two-year contract at the English Championship club.

But Smith, selected this week in Ricki Herbert's squad for June's Oceania Nations Cup, has revealed it could have been very different.

The 22-year-old is a product of the Ipswich academy and has made 64 appearances for the first team, but Smith told the East Anglian Daily Times he considered leaving Portman Road before an extended run in the starting XI put his mind at ease.

Smith experienced a turbulent start to the season, being part of some heavy defeats and eventually being dropped by manager Paul Jewell. But on his return to the side in January, the centre-back went on to start the last 22 games of the campaign as Ipswich finished 15th in the 24-team competition.

"It was a year of ups and downs but I was pleased with how I performed at the back end of the season and how we played as a team as well," Smith said.

"There were definite signs of progress and I think we reaped the benefits of having a settled side.

"When I wasn't in the squad for a few months, it crossed my mind that I may have to move on. That's not something I wanted to happen. I got my head down, though, worked hard and changed the manager's views of me. I'm obviously delighted to have signed the contract and sorted out my future."

Smith will hope to take those positive thoughts into the All Whites' camp over the next month. After two friendlies in Texas against El Salvador and Honduras, the All Whites travel to the Solomon Islands to compete against Oceania's best starting on June 2.

The winner of that tournament will be the region's representative at next year's Confederation's Cup, while the top four countries progress to the next stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

When naming his squad for the tournament, Herbert ruled out the involvement of captain Ryan Nelsen who is recovering from an injury-plagued season at Premier League outfit Tottenham. That leaves a hole at the heart of the New Zealand defence which Smith, along with Winston Reid and Ben Sigmund, will attempt to fill.

It will make for a busy summer for Smith who is a certainty to feature in the Oly-Whites squad to compete at the London Olympics.

Smith is one of eight members of Herbert's 24-man Nations Cup squad who fit within the age limit at the under-23 tournament and, with three overage players permitted, as many as 11 All Whites could feature in both the Nations Cup and the Olympics.

- APNZ

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