TOMMY Smith has hailed the role played by Mick McCarthy in turning him from a Paul Jewell fringe player to a first-team regular.

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Smith has displaced Luke Chambers and now been preferred to Danny Higginbotham in recent weeks since McCarthy took over the reins at Portman Road.

And he has benefited from having the perfect ex-pro to continue his development after the Town boss, a former centre-back, made more than 500 appearances for Barnsley, Manchester City, Celtic, Lyon and Millwall and earned 57 international caps with the Republic of Ireland.

Smith said: “When a new manager comes in it’s always a breath of fresh air for any club. We’ve been working on his ideas in training and they’re starting to bear fruit now.

“It’s a really positive atmosphere around the place and the training methods have been really good so far. He’s implementing his ideas.

“(For me) it’s more like a clean slate really. You get another chance to impress and I’ve been working really hard. He’s been talking to me one-on-one.

“Obviously with him having been a centre-half, he’s been helping me massively. He’s been there and done it and I can only learn from that.”

In addition to his defensive abilities, Smith also revealed that McCarthy wants his centre-backs to be voices on the pitch.

The New Zealand international explained: “I think I’ve always tried to be vocal.

“When you’ve got more senior players alongside you then you take their lead a bit. But as I’ve got more experienced I’ve tried to boss people around a little bit more – that’s what the gaffer wants his centre-halves to do.

When asked about the squad competition, Smith adde: “You can’t rest on your laurels. You have to keep working hard in training and you know if your performance levels slip on a match-day then there is someone there to step in for you.”

The praise between defender and manager is not just confined to Smith though.

Of his defender, McCarthy said: “I like Tommy Smith.

“People say why haven’t I played him? But there is only one game I left him out and that is when he got back from China (after playing for New Zealand in a friendly).

“He has played well and I have been really pleased with him.”

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