Matt Smith had a surprisingly impressive first season at Leeds United, and the Championship club must renew his contract.
Very few could have predicted that Matt Smith’s season would pan out like it did. Arriving from Oldham Athletic for free last summer, he ended this season as one of few players to emerge from Leeds United’s campaign with complete credit. With his contract set to expire at the end of the coming season, Leeds need to begin discussions about extending it.
The 24-year-old’s improvement over the course of the season has been staggering, with regular first-team football clearly benefiting him. While he made 62 league appearances for Oldham, 45 of them were from the bench. At Leeds, he started in 20 of his 39 Championship appearances.
Smith played his way into the first team and put away 12 goals in the league. Against Derby County he did something no one would have expected of him when he first signed. The ball was played onto his feet after he ran the last line of defenders, beating an offside trap, and he took a sublime first touch before chipping it over Lee Grant.
At 6’6”, Smith is built for the Championship, winning on average eight aerial duels per game. He is a great partner to have up front, laying on six assists for other players over the course of the season.
Smith’s relatively unique path into the game, which involved studying for a university degree before earning a move to Oldham, also means that in professional terms, he has got plenty of time to improve. As his teammate Ross McCormack said after the Derby game: ‘Matt hasn’t been in the game long, he is still young and he will only get better’.
Leeds need to ensure that his improvement comes at Elland Road, not elsewhere.