Turning winning into a habit

Matt Smith is feeling good about Brisbane Roar’s chances of winning back-to-back Hyundai A-League grand finals.

Matt Smith sounds upbeat.

When we speak the day has barely started, but he-s already caught up with a mate, finished his breakfast and is heading off to recovery. Oh – and just over 12 hours prior, he led Brisbane Roar to a consecutive Grand Final appearance with a 2-3 win over the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.

A pretty good reason to smile.

While the Chichester-born defender says his career highlight to date is winning the 2010/2011 Grand Final with the Roar, he admits lifting the trophy as Captain would be even bigger.

“Going back-to-back is a lot harder. To be the first team to manage it would be a huge achievement and to be captain of that side would be a pretty special moment – Matt McKay left some big shoes to fill.”

The realisation of that dream is still at least 90 minutes away, and while the focus is now Sunday April 22nd, Smith hasn-t forgotten about the one that got away.

“It was hugely disappointing that we couldn-t defend the Premier-s Plate. I still feel a bit sick about it but maybe it-s given us the extra fire in the belly we need to win the Championship”.

He credits Ange Postecoglou and the management team at Brisbane for their ability to keep the playing group focussed on the task at hand.

“It-s part of Ange-s philosophy and culture to keep the players grounded and concentrating on our development both as a team, and as individuals within that team. As we have developed, the results have tended to follow”.

“It-s a great approach, instead of setting big goals and targets we compare how much we have improved on yesterday, last week, last month and so on”.

That ethos is perhaps a good reflection of the way Smith-s career has developed.

His journey began in the youth ranks at Portsmouth, where Smith says he just ‘wasn-t good enough- to make the senior side.

That may well be the last time the defender has missed the cut.

Since the Pompey days he-s picked up a league title at Sussex County League side Chichester City, helped the Swindon Supermarine team win promotion to the premier division of the Southern League, won a league title and BUSA (Universities Football League) National Championship as captain of the University of Western England – Hartpury team while completing his Masters in Sport Management.

In Australia he-s collected a Gold Coast Premier League title with the Palm Beach Sharks, a Queensland State League title with the Brisbane Strikers and of course the Hyundai A-League Championship with the Roar.

His performances in 2007 with Hartpury also saw him selected for the England Universities side and then picked as one of only 2 British-based players for the Great Britain Universities team to compete at the World University Games in Bangkok.

That trip was not just a success for Smith on a footballing level, but also on a personal one. Following the University Games he travelled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, where he found the biggest prize of all – his partner Aicha, who was also taking time out from England to explore Asia.

The couple now have two children, Ava, and baby Owen and will return to Thailand in June this year to get married.

While their roots are in England, Smith is quite happy calling Australia home, something his mates back in Blighty still delight in ribbing him about.

“When it was announced that I was called into a Socceroos train-on side, the emails started coming through, joking that I couldn-t wear the green and gold and calling me a traitor” he laughs.

Smith-s riposte at the time was that he hadn-t heard Fabio Capello banging down his door.

In November though, Smith will become eligible for Australian selection and should Holger Osieck come knocking he-ll be ready and waiting.

That may be the future, but for now it-s all about the next game.