Belfast Telegraph

Healy sees shades of himself in rising starlet Smyth

By Stuart McKinley

Linfield's nasty November brought at least one positive for manager David Healy - the emergence of teenage starlet Paul Smyth.

Smyth's youthful exuberance was one of the things that kept the Blues boss smiling while the team lost all four league matches last month, a run that hasn't been experienced at Windsor Park in 18 years.

Linfield broke that streak when they beat Coleraine last Saturday and now the next challenge is to try to put a run together leading into the Christmas and New Year period, with Ballinamallard United next up at Windsor Park tomorrow afternoon.

And if the Blues are to start turning up the pressure on the teams above them in the league, expect Smyth to be a key part of that.

Healy spotted the youngster's potential immediately after taking over from Warren Feeney in mid-October and one of his first acts as boss was to hand Smyth his first professional contract - a deal that will take him through to the end of next season.

That came just days after the 18-year-old scored four times in a Harry Cavan Youth Cup tie against Coleraine Colts.

Within a fortnight of that game, Smyth made his league debut and that was followed a week later by his first start in the first team, having previously been introduced in a County Antrim Shield tie against Newington.

He has quickly become a regular starter, with Healy giving him the nod for the last three league games against Glenavon, Portadown and Coleraine, playing all but 11 minutes of those matches.

"He's a good young player, but I would hate to put too much pressure on him now," said Healy.

"What I do like about him is his attitude. He has a fantastic attitude. He gets kicked, pulled, he beats people and gets tripped, but he continually wants to get on the ball.

"I love his attitude and I said two or three weeks ago when I left the Cliftonville game when I put him on for his league debut, the only regret going home after that game was not playing him longer.

"He tries, he gets kicked and he wants to go again."

What makes Smyth's rise even more remarkable is that the club's website lists him as a youth team player.

Healy sees an enthusiasm in Smyth that reminds him of himself in his younger days, when he was picked up by Manchester United, which is why he has been thrust into the line-up.

"I have started him since then because he has an enthusiasm about playing football, like I did when I was a young boy coming through," said Healy.

"He wants to train and when he plays he plays well. He's given me something to look forward to on a training night, to come and see how Paul Smyth is doing."

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