Smith still has a role to play

20 November 2010 09:23
CHRIS Hughton insists Alan Smith is still an important member of his squad, despite starting only four Premier League games this season.

Since the arrival of Ivory Coast international Cheik Tiote, the former Manchester United and Leeds man has seen his first-team opportunities limited.

However, with Joey Barton and Tiote both suspended for today's game at Bolton, Smith could come back in from the wilderness to make his first league start since early September.

If he does, it will give Smith, who has yet to score a goal in a black and white shirt, the chance to prove he can still cut it in the top flight.

Hughton insists Smith is still a key member of his squad and praised the player for the attitude he has shown around the club, despite his lack of games.

It is always difficult for a player who is not playing when he is used to playing,

said Hughton.

It is never an easy time but that is the nature of the game.

We have a competitive squad and the fact he has been left out shows Cheik has come in and played very well.

He understands that. He is a very good individual, very much a team and squad player off the pitch. He is very conscious of the spirit we try to work on here and he is very much part of that.

He is a very good pro. I thought he did very well when he played at the start of the season.

When he has played, he has played in the correct manner.

There is the other side of the game, youthfulness when they play every game or there is experience and generally when he has played, he has played in the correct manner and uses his experience.

Smith's situation has inevitably alerted potential suitors, including the manager that brought him to Tyneside, Sam Allardyce, with rumours Blackburn will launch a bid for his services in the January transfer window.

However, with the club unlikely to spend in January, Hughton insists it is important they don't lose any of their current playing staff - including Smith.

It is even more important that we do not lose players,

Hughton said.

I do not anticipate anyone coming in in January and if that is the case, I do not want anyone going out.

Source: Northern_Echo