Youngster steps into Academy spotlight.
Local lad Martin Smith joined Sunderland as a seven-year-old after catching the eye of the club’s staff playing for local side Redby.
Smith - no relation to the former Sunderland striker of the same name - has progressed through the ranks with the Black Cats and continues to impress with the club’s under-18s.
I always come off the pitch and look at where I can improve my game and where I could have done better
- Martin Smith
And Smith, who scored the winner for Kevin Ball’s development squad in Tuesday’s 1-0 friendly win over Middlesbrough, says he is proud to represent his boyhood club.
“I joined when I was about seven years old; I’ve been here a few years now and it’s great, there’s no better feeling,” Smith explained.
“When you join, you’re little and you’re just progressing and improving all the time.
“From under-8 to under-14 you’re just working every year to get another year [with the club] and you just keep trying to improve and learn from others.”
During his decade with the club, Smith has experienced many ups and downs but says the highs definitely outnumber the lows.
“Some lads fade away and some stay so there have been ups and downs but you’ve just got to have your head right and also a good mentality and good enthusiasm,” he said.
“The staff at the Academy have been great towards me and they always do what’s best for us as players; we’re always looked after and they’ve been there for us through everything.”
Smith has featured in a number 10 role this season, and his physical presence as well as his quality on the ball are particular strong points.
And although he enjoys the attacking part of the game, evident in his three goals so far this season, Smith knows now is the time to become a more complete player.
“I always come off the pitch and look at where I can improve my game and where I could have done better,” he explained.
“I love being on the ball and playing, I like playing with both my right and left foot and it’s important I pass the ball and create things.
“I think as a midfielder, it’s about improving on your priorities - winning your tackles and your headers and competing.”
Now Smith is keen to keep impressing for Craig Liddle’s under-18s as they look to win their group in the Barclays U18 Premier League.
He has also been involved at under-21 level and is hoping to make progress on both fronts.
“The club always push you on if they feel like you can handle it,” he added.
“I’d like to impress at all levels and it would be great to win the league.”