May 23 2013 Latest news:
By Dave Gooderham
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
TOMMY Smith will never give up his international dreams – and believes he can combine his club and country ambitions.
The centre-back has enjoyed something of a renaissance under Mick McCarthy starting five of the last six matches and pushing Premier League defender Danny Higginbotham out of the team.
The one game missed by the former Blues academy defender, the 6-0 hammering at Leicester, came about through Smith’s commitments with New Zealand after he flew to China for a friendly.
But the 22-year-old, who already has a World Cup and an Olympics on his footballing CV, will continue to try and impress at Championship level while travelling the globe with the All Whites.
The New Zealand vice-captain admitted: “It’s not the most ideal thing in the world, but (playing in China) couldn’t be avoided unfortunately.
“The gaffer spoke to me and told me he didn’t think I would be 100per cent for the Leicester game, which was understandable – I don’t think anyone would be.
“Representing my country is a big thing for me and I’ll continue to do that. It came at a bad time, but thankfully I got myself back in the team and have kept my place.”
Smith, and fellow centre-back Luke Chambers, are starting to develop a promising partnership with the Blues showing signs of tightening up at the back.
And following a run of World Cup qualifiers for Brazil 2014, Smith can now devote all his time to playing for his club and trying to keep impressing former centre-back McCarthy.
He explained: “My next game is not until March, so hopefully I can cement my place in the side now.
“When it’s a FIFA window you have to be released for it. But I’m not going to turn down the opportunity of representing my country.
“I liaise with the physios and the medical team at Ipswich. They try and get me to stay on the same sleeping patterns. I suppose with me being a youngster it helps me get over the jet-lag quicker.”
Higginbotham’s second loan spell at Portman Road runs out at the end of this month with McCarthy pondering whether to offer him a permanent deal or look elsewhere to strengthen his defensive options.