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All Whites: Smith hails All Whites professionalism

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

On the eve of his comeback match against Fiji, returning All White Tommy Smith has hailed the professionalism of the national team’s set-up and believes that will stand them in good stead as they take their next steps on the road to Russia.

After a hiatus from international duty, Smith is delighted to be back in the fold and is hugely impressed by what he has seen in the camp.

"I love pulling on the shirt and I’m really excited to be doing that again - I’m 100 per cent committed, no question," he says.

"The environment is really professional, that’s the first thing that struck me. I came straight from the airport when I got to Wellington to watch training and just the equipment and the structure of the session really impressed me."

At the heart of that professionalism is coach Anthony Hudson, who is looking to set high standards across all aspects of the team environment.

"He’s a top coach, is really diligent in what he does and that comes across so well in training. All the sessions are being recorded and we even have real time feedback," Smith says.

"They were doing a session when I arrived and he stopped the session, everyone walked over to the screen and he pulled a clip that had just happened 30 seconds earlier. That shows the innovation of the technology we’ve got and the attention to detail he’s got for trying to get things right here."

With captain Winston Reid not available due to injury, Smith’s experience will be even more useful as the All Whites face Fiji in Lautoka tomorrow afternoon before returning to Wellington for the home leg, which takes place at Westpac Stadium on Tuesday evening.

"Being a senior player, I have a fair amount of caps and have been around for a long time now. I’d like to think I can offer any experience I can," the Ipswich Town defender says.

"But obviously it’s a bit of a new feel and scenario for me coming into camp, there’s a lot of new faces that I haven’t seen before so it will take a bit of time to get to know them. But hopefully once that’s happened I can lend my experience to them."

Also offering a wealth of experience is Peter Taylor, who was once interim manager of England and is now an assistant coach to Hudson. The former England international has managed a host of clubs in the English game, as well as coaching internationally for Bahrain, and is already well aware of the qualities of Smith after first coming across him at Stevenage Borough.

"I got Tommy in loan from Ipswich as a 17-year-old and he was the best player I had," Taylor says. "I never forgot that so I’ve always looked at his progress and have seen what a very good career he’s had. I think he’s a very good professional so I’m delighted he’s back in the squad."

After being out for some time with a serious back injury, Smith has now returned to full fitness and is forcing his way back into the first team picture at Ipswich, who play in the second-tier English Championship.

Before he can complete doing so though, the 26-year-old must join his All Whites team mates in taking care of business against Fiji and edging ever-closer to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"They’re going to be strong opposition - when you go to the islands there’s never any easy games. All the conditions will contrive against us and it’s down to us to put what we’ve done in training into the matches and win those games," he says.

"For us players, every game is important because we want to be putting ourselves in the window to impress the gaffer and stay in the squad."

All Whites v Fiji - OFC Stage Three Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

Game 1

When: Saturday 25 March, kick off 1pm (2pm NZ time)

Where: Churchill Park, Lautoka, Fiji

Game 2

When: Tuesday 28 March, kick off 7.35pm

Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand

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