Tommy Smith made a welcome return to the
side today after his Ipswich Town team were knocked out of the Olympics. New Zealand
The Oly Whites ended their London 2012 experience bottom of the group, but that won’t have been too disappointing for the side which also included Chris Wood (
) and Ryan Nelsen (QPR). Bristol City
But was Tommy’s involvement in this tournament a good thing or a bad thing for the club that pays his wages? I’ve seen fans debate either side of this argument and wanted to offer an opinion based on my experience whilst watching him this summer.
I was at the City of
last week to see Tommy Smith become the only Coventry Stadium player to feature in these Olympic Games and was able to speak to him after the game. Ipswich Town
I was at the City of
He seemed genuinely proud to be a part of the competition and, despite a disappointing defeat to
, he was in good spirits. He explained what an honour it was to have been able to do that with family (his parents and girlfriend made the trip up from Suffolk) and Ipswich Town fans supporting him – he repeatedly thanked us for being there, ‘I’ve seen lots of blue shirts, it’s been amazing’. Belarus
At the time he was looking forward to his next match against
at Old Trafford, ‘I’ve never played there before, it’s a dream come true’ and, of course, the final match against Egypt was on his mind too. These are experiences he’ll never forget and that is my first reason for saying I believe he absolutely did the right thing in taking part in the Olympics. Brazil
It is important games like this that can ‘make you’ as a player, how much did playing for the
benefit Matt Holland? And I don’t recall anyone questioning his commitment to our club. Hopefully, the experience will have added to Tommy’s ability to perform under pressure. Republic of Ireland
There is also the argument that the quality of football Tommy was involved with this summer will be much higher than if he’d played in our pre-season friendlies. With all due respect to Cambridge United and
, Tommy will have learnt so much from playing against tournament favourites: Luton Town – surely no-one can deny that? Brazil
So how about the game itself? How did Tommy do?
To be honest it was probably one of the slowest football matches I’ve ever seen and the passing ability of both sides left a lot to be desired. It was sloppy and, as you’ll have seen if you watched any of the matches,
seemed to lack the finishing touch despite having good possession of the ball for the majority of the game. New Zealand
In defence they were okay, but only okay. The goal seemed like poor marking, not Tommy, and it was a shame that that goal that made the difference in the end. I felt Tommy did, occasionally, seem to lose the man he was marking, something I’ve often seen him do in a Town shirt. But, in general, he was solid, showed a lot of intelligence and most of all I was impressed with the way he organised the team.
Tommy was given the captain’s armband for the World Cup qualifying matches earlier in the summer and he seemed to be carrying the influence he’d had then into these games. I hope this is a skill he’ll continue to show on the
Portman Road pitch.
The only other concern was that Tommy, by his own admission, began to look very tired towards the end of the game. He explained that it was his first full 90 minutes since he’d played in the
(for the World Cup Qualifiers) but he was sure it would get easier now. As we said to him, it was a great way to get fit for the season! Solomon Islands
His fitness levels therefore will be great after the number of games he has played this summer, but that - of course - plays into the hands of fans who are concerned he will become tired too quickly because he hasn’t had a summer break.
Well, I put that to Tommy after the game and the thought had clearly not even crossed his mind. He said, ‘I had a bit of a break after the World Cup (due to a hamstring injury picked up in training with
) but I’m raring to go now’. Ipswich Town
Tommy’s only 22, he’s not in desperate need of a rest and – from what he said to us – I don’t think he wanted one. He’s keen to work on his fitness, something most Town fans would have put at the top of their list for every single first team player to work on over the summer. So, again, I feel the summer of playing will have benefited Tommy, and therefore will benefit
I can only see it as a positive that he has been allowed to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity and am glad the club have supported him in it. But I’m glad he’s back now and, judging by the half time score against West Ham, we have missed him!