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READ | I feel like my all-round game has improved - Smith

11 March 2021

There can be very few criticisms levelled at a forward like Michael Smith – particularly when it comes to effort levels.

His dedication to chase a lost cause or run his blood to water when ploughing a lone furrow in attack has quite rightly earned him the plaudits since his arrival from Bury back in 2018.

Smith’s game is tailor-made for the Millers’ style and the fact that he has played in all-but-two of the club’s Championship fixtures this season is evidence in itself of his importance to the side.

If Paul Warne could have ‘built’ a striker, he would probably look something like the Millers’ number 24.

Of course, in a perfect world, to compliment that figure his goal tally in recent years would perhaps have been akin to strike partner Freddie Ladapo, who has once again hit an impressive six goals considering his game time has been limited to substitute appearances in the main - one of which was that match-winning strike at Hillsborough which will mean his name is forever etched into Millers folklore.

But Smith, who managed eight second tier strikes during the club’s 2018/19 season, has set about adding goals to his game and has done just that with the same number to his name at present, but with 14 games left before the full-time whistle is called on the current campaign.

"I'm on the same number of goals now as I finished up with in the Championship last time, so I feel like my all-round game has improved."

Michael Smith

"At this level, I only have the last time we were in the Champ to use as a yardstick, so I think I'm playing better than I was then. I'm still loving my football at Rotherham and we've got a great group of lads here, so it's really enjoyable to go into work every day.”

The Geordie forward has a tally so far that sees him joint 10th in the second tier scoring charts, above a host of high-profile names and ex-Premier League operators.

However, despite the fact he can take great pride in where his name currently sits in the rankings, Smith insists he won’t consider it an achievement in his own mind unless he can break into the league’s top five.

"You see little things like that but it's only normally the top five and top six who see their names on the 'goalscorers' list,” he admitted.

"I'm not in there at the moment, so I'm not too interested where I am among the rest. If you ask any striker, they all want to be up there but I'm going to give the politically correct answer and say that I'm going to concentrate on myself and score as many goals as I can.”

Michael Smith

Paul Warne’s attacking options range from the brute strength of Smith to the sharpshooting Ladapo with Leicester City loanee George Hirst providing competition for both in the final third, but Smith, who has enjoyed a prolonged run in the side, has credited the contribution of Matt Crooks for his own successes this season.

"I think there is some understanding there because of our friendship. Before Covid, we used to do a lot of off-the-field stuff together,” he explained.

"His partner and my partner are close with the kids as well now and we've got a really good understanding on the pitch and I do think it helps that we've got a good friendship off it.

"We train together every day and it worked quite well in the back end of the Championship season when Tree first came to the club.

"I think we saw it for periods in League One as well. It's a really good relationship to be a part of, but I think that is the case with whoever starts at the top end of the pitch.”

An outbreak of Covid-19 within the first team squad has resulted in the Millers training base at Roundwood being closed, allowing for a period of self-isolation ahead of Tuesday night’s game against Watford.

Having created a culture in which players are expected to always maintain their high standards, Warne can comfortably rely on his charges to keep themselves in the best possible shape at home before their return to Sky Bet Championship action – a task Smith is well on top of from the comfort of his garden at home.

"Last summer, I had a bit of my back garden done so I've got an area astro turfed which has become a bit of an 'outdoor gym'."

Michael Smith

“I've got a pull-up bar and a little bounce net that I treated myself to from Amazon, so in instances like this when we can't get out because of the self-isolation rules, it keeps me ticking.

"It's good to be able to at least get a touch of the football whilst we're not in the training ground. 

"It was massive to have somewhere to get some exercise in during the first lockdown. The little one had just arrived back then, but even to have that getaway on the back garden was good to get out and know I'd done something.

"As someone who is a bit of a regular in the gym at training, I've thoroughly enjoyed chucking a few weights around in the garden and it always helps."


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