‘He’s exactly like Raheem Sterling’: Inside track on Sam Smart from Sunderland trialist’s manager and chief executive

Sam Smart in action for Sunderland's Under-23s.
Sam Smart in action for Sunderland's Under-23s.
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Sunderland could land themselves a clone of England star Raheem Sterling and Bournemouth sensation David Brooks if they push through a deal for on-trial winger Sam Smart.

For while Smart’s current manager at non-league Basingstoke Town has likened the 20-year-old to Sterling, a journalist who has followed the youngster’s career sees comparison with Wales international Brooks.

However, the word from Basingstoke is that no deal has yet been extensively discussed or agreed with Sunderland for Smart.

The trialist impressed for Sunderland’s U23s in a defeat against Middlesbrough at Hetton on Monday night, winning a penalty before being replaced after an hour.

And Basingstoke boss Terry Brown is convinced that Smart can both secure a permanent deal and bridge a four-division between the Southern League South club and the Black Cats...courtesy of some familiar attributes.

“He’s exactly like Sterling – you’ve got to catch him first,” former Wimbledon manager Brown said.

“He’s got electric pace, the same as Raheem; he’s right-footed the same.

“He’s not a ‘face-up’ player, so he’s not going to show up and get kicked from behind. He looks to get off the shoulder and run in behind people.

“He will find – and I’ve been doing this a lot of years – the intensity of training [at Sunderland] massively different, but the boy’s 20 years old, he can only get better.

“With Raheem Sterling at Liverpool, they blooded him in the Under-23s and gave him plenty of game time at that level alongside similar players.

“I’m sure if he [Smart] was at a club with the prestige of Sunderland, Paul Reid [Sunderland academy manager] would bring him on the same way.”

Graham Merry, who reports on Basingstoke for the Basingstoke Gazette, is also very positive about Smart, but pinpointed another Premier League player as being the player he’s most like in style.

He said: “He’s a very speedy winger. That’s his game, he’s extremely quick.

“He goes past people and does get plenty of assists for Basingstoke Town because of his speed.

“The one player I would say is Brooks, who plays at Bournemouth.

“He’s quite small, but again is quite agile and gets himself about.”

However, despite the early signs of promise, an agreement has yet to be reached by the two clubs.

“There’s no deal arranged,” said Basingstoke’s chief executive David Knight.

“They invited him for training and obviously to play on Tuesday night – hopefully, from that point of view and his point of view, with a view to signing him.”

And for Brown, he thinks the move is long overdue for Smart.

He added: “He’s been with us for two years and it’s about time he moved on, to be honest.

“I spoke to [Sunderland recruitment man] Richard Hill and Paul Reid, and Paul has actually seen the boy for us.

“So he knows him very well and hopefully that will help facilitate a move.”