Callum grabbing chance to impressTuesday, 15th Aug 2017
Callum Smith:- "Everybody hopes to be ahead of schedule at my age but everybody doesn`t get the chance
After watching a sixteen year old called Wayne Rooney impress at East End Park in a pre season friendly against Davie Moyes` Everton, Dunfermline fans have watched long enough to see if they too could produce a potential star of the future from their youth system.
In the period after the club went into administration in 2012, youth was called upon to extensively fill the vacancies in the Pars first team and it was just as well that John Potter`s proteges had achieved the standard to be Scottish Youth Cup finalists that season.
Players of that era - Ryan Williamson and Lewis Martin - went on to become first team regulars and others like Shaun Byrne and Lewis Spence have since moved on to success elsewhere. But to make it into the current first team as a 17 year old, at a time when experience would appear to be essential is a major achievement.
On Saturday Callum Smith made his third first team start and his first start at East End Park. In front of the home faithful it took him less than two minutes to endear them to him, scoring the first goal in the Championship match against the club that was playing in the Premier League only last season.
The young striker has been at Dunfermline Athletic since the age of 14 and came through the Fife Elite Academy always hoping that he would be the one who could traverse the extremely tough terrain to first team football.
Callum walked off with the Man of the Match award on his East End starting debut and just as well it wasn`t an alcoholic reward. The underage player was an instant hit with young fans clamouring for his autograph at the end and it was a beaming Callum who confidently talked to the media as if he had done that all his playing days:-
"I have been working hard for ages to get my chance in the team, when it came I have got to take my chance. I feel like I did that today. I got Man of the Match, got a goal and set the tone for the team.
"I couldn`t believe the start. I worked hard to get the ball back for us and when I did get it back, I took my chance."
There was less than ninety seconds gone when Callum netted the opener. He ran on to a high ball out of his own half from Joe Cardle, heading the ball on far enough for the Inverness Caley Thistle keeper to believe he could win the race out of his box to clear. Mark Ridgers misjudged the youngsters pace however and Callum was able to force the ball left before slotting home between Brad Mackay and the keeper for 1-0.
The Beath High School former pupil was handed his starting debut at Tynecastle in the Betfred Cup and was responsible for creating the second Dunfermline goal in a match that was to see the capital side dumped out of that competition. Early in the second half he beat off the challenge of John Souttar and showing great composure squared to allow Declan McManus the glory of sending the Fifers into a 2-1 lead. Playing in a match that had a UK wide live television audience, Callum certainly rose to the occasion, he added:-
"The Hearts game was brilliant, it was my first start for Dunfermline so to get an assist in that game was amazing. Playing in front of all those fans was a great achievement for me."
The first Championship match of the season at Livingston saw Callum selected to fulfil the role vacated by the suspension of McManus but then he dropped out of the team since suspension did not apply to the Betfred Cup tie. Callum felt that for Dunfermline it was important to extinguish the bad experience at Ibrox on Wednesday:-
"I didn`t play on Wednesday night but the team was a wee bit down and we had to come back stronger. We showed that on Saturday and all the fans are buzzing for us again.
"I was disappointed to not be playing on Wednesday but these things happen. You just have to come back stronger and I feel like I did that against Caley Thistle."
The opportunity to start upfront alongside David Hopkirk has come about due to Nicky Clark having an ankle injury and Declan McManus` enforced absence but despite not holding a great belief that he will keep them out of the team, the young man is keen to maintain that taste of first team football:-
"I am going to try my best to stay in the team but if that doesn`t happen I just have to work harder in training to try and get back in the team again."
Declan McManus has now served his two league match ban and is available for Tuesday night`s Irn-Bru Cup tie against Arbroath, Callum added:-
"It is a decision for the manager to make but whatever happens I just have to bounce back and do well again."
One thing to Callum`s advantage is that he knows very well the Arbroath keeper that he will be trying to beat. David Hutton spent the last two seasons at East End Park and played behind him in many Development League matches and of course faced each other in plenty of shooting practice. Callum is hoping that the reunion is a good one for him:-
"I know Hutts. I know his strengths and weaknesses so hopefully I can bang the goals in."
The Cowdenbeath lad`s father, Barry Smith, played centre midfield for East Fife and junior with Hill of Beath. He and most of Callum`s family follow his progress at every game. The teenager added:-
"We are different players but he gives me tips and tells me if I play bad, he tells me if I play well. He gives me encouragement all the time so I am grateful for that."
Smith`s goal on Saturday is just one of sixteen goals in the last three matches at East End Park this season, he claimed that is just what the manager wants:-
"He wants us to score as many goals as we can. He wants runs in behind, always being on top of defenders, not give them any time. That is what I did on Saturday and we got five goals from it. It is obviously working.
"That`s the football I love. Balls over the top because I just use my pace all the time to get in behind. I do not give them any peace, that`s the way the gaffer wants me to play and that`s the way I like playing so that is brilliant. I like the way he plays."
So can Callum stay in Allan Johnston`s plans? He certainly hopes to and would love to show that in the Irn-Bru Cup against Dick Campbell`s Red Lichties:-
"Everybody hopes to be ahead of schedule for my age but everybody doesn`t get the chance. I am getting the chance just now so I have to keep doing my best to keep in the team. If things don`t come my way I will just have to bounce back again."