Under-18's skipper says youngsters buoyant ahead of Tees-Wear derby.
Sunderland AFC’s under-18 captain, Martin Smith, says last weekend’s 4-1 win over Barclays U18 Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur was the perfect way for the young Black Cats to prepare for this weekend’s Tees-Wear derby with Middlesbrough.
The lads played with freedom and confidence and, although it was a real test of character, I was really proud
- Smith on U18s' win at Spurs
Smith, who is a second-year scholar, told safc.com the result at Spurs has built confidence amongst the young group ahead of this weekend’s clash with their Teesside neighbours.
“It was great to get back on track,” the Redby-born midfielder said. “We played well against Manchester United but lost 3-2 and didn’t get our rewards.
“Against Villa we drew 1-1 and perhaps didn’t take the chance to win the game, so we went to Spurs knowing it was going to be a big challenge with them being top of the league.
“However, the lads played with freedom and confidence and, although it was a real test of character, I was really proud of the lads.”
Smith, who is one of only four under-18 players to feature in all 12 league games this season, has now urged his teammates to build on the win and iron out their inconsistencies.
“That [inconsistency] has been our problem,” he added. “It’s really important, even though we’re young, that we try to become a more consistent team.
“Hopefully that win will help us to play with confidence and belief because we’ve got a great attitude in the group and we work hard every day.
We’ve got a great attitude in the group and we work hard every day
- Smith on colleagues
“We know if we play like we did against Manchester United and obviously Tottenham we’ll win football matches.”
Saturday’s local derby provides the young Black Cats with the opportunity to win back-to-back games for only the second time this season.
And Smith, who has captained the side throughout the campaign, is keen to continue showing his leadership skills in the big games.
“I think as captain of the group I have to continue to be the leader and encourage the lads in a game like a local derby,” Smith continued.
“My role in the group has changed after being a younger member of the squad last season but I have learnt a lot from the older lads and I think that has helped me this season.
“Hopefully I continue to set a good example and be a good captain because we have a fantastic group of players.”