Martin Smith

Smith's brush with 'deadly' Saha

by Stuart Vose

Former favourite recalls striker's Fulham days.

Former Sunderland star Martin Smith is pleased to be able to watch Louis Saha from the stands these days having seen the Frenchman come off much the better in their one and only head-to-head.

Rewind to 2000, when Smith’s Huddersfield came up against the powerful forward, then still in his early days at Fulham.

Saha ripped the Terriers apart with a scintillating display, scoring the first goal in a 3-0 win at Craven Cottage.

Such was the quality of his performance, Smith still remembers the game vividly despite doing his best to banish it from his memory!

“Louis was still relatively new but I remember him being absolutely frightening,” Smith recalled.

“I’d heard reports about him and it was one of those games where you come up against someone who is exceptional.

“His hold-up play was brilliant, he was so strong, could turn quickly and his first touch was superb.

“You could tell then that he was a cut above Football League level and that he’d go on to bigger and better things.

“Usually I’d try to forget a 3-0 defeat, but his performance that day has made that game stick in my head.”

Smith, known by many fans as ‘Son of Pele’ during his time on Wearside, feels Martin O’Neill has pulled off an excellent piece of business by bringing in the striker on a free transfer.

Saha is just three goals short of 150 in English football and slots into a front line which also includes the likes of Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon.

“At times Saha has been forgotten about a little bit because everyone has been so excited about the Fletcher deal, but he is a great player,” Smith said.

“He has been an exceptional talent for years and has still got that quality, which we saw for Everton and Spurs last season.

“He’s got great experience and still scores goals – I think he’s an exciting signing.”