Tommy Smith reveals the 'crazy' story behind his Sunderland move - and what Phil Parkinson said about his first-team chances
Tommy Smith has revealed the ‘crazy’ circumstances behind his move to Sunderland – which saw a dramatic rush for his signature.
After injuries to Bailey Wright and Joel Lynch, the Black Cats were left short at the back and Phil Parkinson subsequently turned to Smith on a short-term deal.
The centre back is yet to make an appearance since putting pen to paper on Wearside, but was on the bench for the visit of Bristol Rovers in February just hours after signing for the club.
And few knew the dramatic circumstances behind that place among the substitutes, which Smith revealed during a conversation with US Sports Scholarships.
“I hadn’t even trained with the squad,” he explained.
“One of their centre backs had picked up an injury. I wasn’t meant to sign until the Monday, but I got a phone call on the Friday lunchtime saying ‘we need you to sign today so you can be in the squad tomorrow’.
“That was crazy. It was almost like a deadline day scenario where they had a deadline to hit on the Friday so I could be involved.
“It was great to be involved and the atmosphere… there are 30,000 in League One and that just shows the passion that the fans have here.”
While Smith is yet to take to the field for the Black Cats, he felt he was ‘getting closer’ to an appearance before the League One campaign was suspended in mid-March.
That belief came after a concerted effort to build up his match fitness, which had been lacking after several months out of the game.
Indeed, even manager Parkinson had remarked as to how the centre back was showing real signs of improvement – which ultimately would have improved his first-team chances.
“Obviously I haven’t played for them yet, but I felt I was getting closer,” added Smith.
“I left the MLS in October, played internationals in November but hadn’t played any games since.
“I’d kept myself fit but unless you’re playing matches, you can’t get that match sharpness back.
“I was just getting there, and the manager had told me he thought I was looking sharp, and then the season got suspended.
“I was obviously very disappointed, but at the same time football is very minor in the grand scheme of things.”
This is the first time that Smith has worked with Parkinson during his career, and the Sunderland boss has made a quick impression on the New Zealand international.
Indeed, there are echoes of a former occupant of the Stadium of Light hotseat for Smith.
“He reminds me a little bit of Mick McCarthy in the way he handles things. He’s straight down the line and as honest as the day is long.
“It’s all you want from a manager really, you want honesty.
“You want to be told what you have to do to get in the team.
“He’s being honest with me which is obviously admirable.”