Scout Report: Alex Smithies
Yesterday we took a look at former Scunthorpe goalkeeper Joe Murphy as we begin to look at possible transfer targets for the Seasiders this summer.
Whilst the 'Pool undoubtedly need a keeper or two this summer, we concluded that Murphy was not quite good enough to be the number one for a club (hopefully) chasing promotion, so today we take a look at a keeper who might just be the solution: Huddersfield's highly rated young goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
When Ian Holloway was appointed as Blackpool manager, he stated that he wanted to sign young players that he could polish up and develop before selling them on for profit. That wish seems to have got somewhat lost with everything that's happened during Ollie's tenure, but it would be nice if the club did target some younger players again this summer as we look to rebuild our side, and Smithies fits the bill perfectly.
Aged just 21, Smithies has already racked up over 100 appearances for his hometown club (and indeed the club he supports).
He came through Town's academy before making his debut for the club in December 2007 after then first choice keeper Matt Glennon was sent off against Southend.
He then made his full debut for the Terriers just days later against Leeds United due to Glennon's suspension.
It wasn't until the 2007/8 season though and the arrival of Lee Clark as manager that Smithies made the number one jersey his own.
It was during the 2009/10 season though that he really began to catch the attention of other teams with a string of fine displays, keeping seventeen clean sheets along the way.
And despite struggling with a knee injury this season, interest in Smithies is still very high, with a host of Premier League clubs said to be tracking him. Indeed, 'Pool were linked with him during the January transfer window and it is Vital's understanding that Ollie may well have had him watched during the past twelve months.
Smithies has also been recognised internationally as well, possessing four caps for England U16s, ten for the U17s (including five gained during the U17 World Cup), one for the U18s and one for the U19s. Last summer he was also called up for England U21s but is yet to be capped at that level.
Whilst Premier League clubs are monitoring his progress, 'Pool might be amongst the frontrunners to secure his signature this summer should the Terriers decide to cash in on him following their failure in the League One playoffs; we could offer him first team football in the Championship (which would further his development, something that Smithies is said to be very keen on), and we can point to what Ollie has done for Charlie Adam's, David Vaughan's and DJ Campbell's careers (amongst others) as a reason for joining us and taking another step towards playing at the highest level.
Unlike Paul Rachubka and Richard Kingson (who have both been released by the Seasiders already this summer), Smithies knows how to command his area. Indeed, for someone so young, he's remarkably composed and communicates well with the rest of his defence. He's also strong in the air, again something that can't be said for either Rabs or Kingson.
That said, being so young, he is prone to errors, but by all accounts he's a hard working player who puts in the hours on the training ground to improve his game. If the 'Pool were to sign him, we may have to put up with the odd clanger as he develops, but there's no doubt that with continued hard work, and support and encouragement from his coaching staff and supporters that he has the potential to play at the highest level, and if Ollie is looking to return to his policy of signing young(er) players, then Smithies would be a good place to start.
It's difficult to know what kind of fee Huddersfield would ask for him, but there's no doubt that 'Pool would have to shell out a sizeable fee (probably with a next sale clause attached) with him being so highly rated (it's also believed that he has at least two years to run on his current contract). Then again, 'Pool have got money to burn so to speak, and with Huddersfield failing to gain promotion to the Championship this season despite having spent a fair wedge of money, they may just be prepared to cash in on one of their prized assets.
If 'Pool were to make a move for Smithies, it'd be a real statement of intent and would also illustrate that chairman Karl Oyston is prepared to back Ollie in the transfer market, something that is vital this transfer window.
We'll be back with more Scout Reports throughout the summer, but in the meantime you can tell us what you think of Smithies or indeed any other player linked with BFC on our forums - get involved!