Smith's lucky break with Wellington Phoenix

23:31, Oct 20 2011
Alex Smith
LUCKY BREAK: Alex Smith joined the Wellington Phoenix after the Gold Coast decided not to sign him.

They've had their ups and downs, but Alex Smith, the English-born American globetrotter poised to start in the Phoenix midfield on Sunday, is back in love with the beautiful game.

The past few months have been, in Smith's own words, crazy, as he bounced between Sydney Olympic, Gold Coast United and now the Phoenix in search of an A-League gig.

Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg had signed Smith, a former FC Dallas attacking midfielder, as a striker in the preseason but then decided he instead wanted Dutchman Maceo Rigters, who had trialled with the Phoenix, to provide a more physical presence up front.

So Smith was paid out of his contract and plugged away for Olympic in the New South Wales premier league, eventually catching a break when Mirjan Pavlovic broke an arm clowning around at training, leaving Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert desperately short on attacking options.

"That's football. It just didn't work out at the Gold Coast, for one reason or another and you know, you've just got to keep working hard and put your head down and just know that good things will come," Smith said.

"Luckily the Phoenix had one foreign spot open so I've just come in and am looking to play well and hopefully stay here for as long as I can."


Smith is on a short-term contract as injury cover for Pavlovic, which expires in December.

HE MADE his debut off the bench in last Sunday's 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets, almost making the perfect start in front of the Yellow Fever but instead firing his shot into the side netting.

"I was speaking to my agent actually and I was saying it would have been too good to be true, you know, coming on for 10 minutes and making a 60-yard run and scoring a goal."

Tim Brown's dubious suspension for time-wasting against Newcastle is good news for Smith, 26, who appears to have the inside running over Kiwi teenager Cameron Lindsay to play in central midfield against the high-flying Perth Glory at nib Stadium.

Herbert is still weighing up the merits of the more defensively minded Lindsay but is leaning towards fielding an attacking trio of Smith, Nick Ward and Dani Sanchez.

"The other three [Smith, Ward and Sanchez] I think shift the ball really well, I think they'll be good in midfield," Herbert said.

"I think they'll be a test for Perth, who are probably a bit more resolute defensively than us in that area.

"I wouldn't say we're going to throw caution to the wind but we want to go across there and kind of play and open them up a little bit and maybe with those three we can."

Smith was born in London and moved to America as a two-year-old.

HE GREW up in Texas, where he played his college football, before having a season with Dallas in the professional MLS before packing it in and heading Down Under on his OE.

"I actually quit football for about three years," Smith said.

"I was young, I was still in college and I got tired of the whole business side of football. I got done with university and just moved to Australia. I didn't know anybody, just had a lot of money saved up and moved over and started playing again for fun. I pretty much got over it, I wanted to try other things and travel and do stuff like that. I kind of lost that love for the game and then I started playing again and obviously I had it back and I'm enjoying it again."

It's that sort of life experience that means Smith isn't fazed about barking out orders in an unfamiliar midfield against a table-topping Perth team boasting a red-hot Shane Smeltz.

"I've always prided myself on being able to play multiple different positions. I can play anywhere in front of the back four and I've even had to play at right back as well. It's a bit more running than up front but I'm confident in my ability and hopefully Ricki is as well."

The Dominion Post