Bristol City v Sheff Utd: Blades need to shackle summer target Smith

Sheffield United hoped to sign Matt Smith when he left Leeds United but the forward opted to join Fulham (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Sheffield United hoped to sign Matt Smith when he left Leeds United but the forward opted to join Fulham (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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Nigel Clough today comes face to face with a striker he tried to sign last summer only to be told that player did not want to ply his trade in League One.

That forward is Matt Smith, who is now on loan at Bristol City and spearheading their charge towards the Championship.

Blades’ manager Clough enquired about Smith when he was at Leeds United last summer, only to be snubbed by the rangy striker who opted to join Fulham – fresh from relegation from the Premier League – for £500,000.

Now on loan at Bristol City, the former Oldham player has bagged 12 goals in 16 appearances for the Robins.

“We enquired about the big lad Smith before they did and got told he didn’t want to play in League One,” said Clough, who is being heavily linked with a move for Blackpool striker Steve Davies.

“That’s the way it goes, but then all of a sudden he ends up at Bristol City.”

How different things might have been had United snagged Smith, with the Blades battling for the top six while City bid for automatic promotion.

“They’re top of the league because they’re the best team in the division,” observed Clough.

“It is a very good squad. I remember at the start of the season everyone saying we were favourites, and we said ‘hold on, we think Bristol City should be favourites’.

“The difference between us and Bristol was they got their business done in the summer, and brought in just one or two in January, but generally it’s been there since the summer.

“We tried, but unfortunately, through nobody’s fault, we couldn’t get in our No 1 targets in the summer.”

United can strengthen their position in the table with a win today having stormed back into the top six with Tuesday’s win over Colchester United.

Midfielder Paul Coutts was instrumental in the victory with Clough keen to saddle the playmaker with more responsibility.

“He’s a good player and very comfortable on the ball,” said the manager.

“He’s building up his match fitness and we’re hopefully going to see a lot more of him in the next three months and beyond.

“Paul’s going to be an important player for us. We want him to create and dominate, he’s good enough to do that, but it’s difficult to do when you join a new club because he’s not the type to just strut in and say ‘I’m top man now’.

“You do need an element of that on the pitch, if not off it, but he’s good enough to boss most games.”