Norwich City Memory Lane: Steven Smith on 50 Cent and leaving Glasgow Rangers for Carrow Road
- Credit: Adrian Judd/Archant Norfolk 2010
Steven Smith made a big career decision when he left Ibrox for Carrow Road in the summer of 2010 – as he explained to Paddy Davitt
Hip Hop icon 50 Cent is one of Steven Smith’s musical idols.
Track three on the American rapper’s multi-platinum debut album ‘Get rich — or die tryin’ could have been penned with Smith in mind.
‘Patiently waiting’ just about sums up the 24-year-old’s career to date.
Handed his Ibrox senior debut at the tender age of 19, Smith went on to make his Championship League bow the following year.
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The left-back looked to be cementing a regular place in Paul Le Guen’s side at the beginning of the 2006 season until a recurring pelvic injury and hernia surgery sidelined him for more than 15 months.
Further injury problems pushed him down the pecking order before a brief trial at Cardiff was the precursor to his first senior Rangers appearance in over a year. Smith did feature 18 times last season during the club’s SPL and Scottish League Cup double-winning campaign and the boyhood ‘Gers fan admits he could have stayed put. But Smith craved a fresh challenge. At his age, the time for patiently waiting is long since past.
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“I just felt coming down south would be a good opportunity to kick on my career,” he says. “I had been at Rangers a long time now and maybe the last few years haven’t been going the way I had hoped they would. I hadn’t really played a major role and they had won the last two leagues in a row, so I would have liked to have played a bigger part. I just felt it was time to move and get myself a bit more football.
“There was a few clubs interested and staying at Rangers was another option for me and, of course, it was hard to decide to leave a club where you have been 14 years — really since I was 10 — but I was at a point in my career when I had to make a tough decision. The move to Norwich is something I am very much looking forward to.”
Smith dispels the myth swapping Glasgow’s fervent footballing hotbed for the English Championship is a backward step.
“I am an ambitious footballer, I believe in my ability, and I just want to get back to playing regular football,” he says. “For me it’s moving from one big club to another – and that is not always the case, because people might think when you leave Rangers it is a step down. You are leaving a place that is always competing for trophies but when you got to a club the size of Norwich then the expectation is still there to win every week.
“You’re playing in front of big crowds and that is something I enjoy — that pressure to perform. If you don’t win football matches then you expect to get a bit of stick and I love to win. When you decide to move then you look for things that will attract you as a player and for me that is the size of the club, the training ground, the stadium, even the manager, and it’s a huge club.”
Smith had no hesitation crossing his own Old Firm divide to link up with Celtic’s former captain and the chief architect of City’s instant Championship return.
“Paul Lambert was a big pull,” says Smith. “I watched him playing for Scotland and obviously he went over to Borussia Dortmund and did well there and then he came back and was captain of Celtic and it’s not very often that great players make good managers but I cam down a few weeks before I signed to meet the manager and I was impressed with everything he had to say.
“He told me about how he wants to move the club forward and whilst it was a hard decision to leave Rangers it wasn’t hard to come and play for Paul Lambert — because of the career he had everyone in Scotland knows about him and what he has done.
“So, yes, he was probably the biggest pull for me.”
Smith is acutely aware one man blocks his path to a regular starting spot at Carrow Road. Adam Drury is rapidly closing in on a decade of unbroken service that now includes two title-winning campaigns on his footballing CV.
“It’s part and parcel of being at a big football club – competition for places,” says Smith. “When someone has played that many games for the football club you have to respect them, but not just him, a lot of those boys who played last year will want a crack at the Championship and they deserve a crack at it for what they did for the club last year. I think all the boys coming in know they have a fight on their hands to get into the team. I just want to go in during pre-season, work hard, and hope I get the rewards after that.
“When I first got into the team at Rangers it was more of an attacking role and I didn’t concentrate on the defensive side, to be honest, but the older you get and when you have the chance to play alongside more experienced players you learn things all the time and the defensive side of my game has developed – but that is the part I enjoy the most, going forward.”
First car: When I was 17 I bought a Corsa.
Boyhood club: Rangers. All my family were Rangers supporters.
Favourite Old Firm memory: The season before last with about seven games to go we were neck and neck going for the title. We had to beat them at Ibrox and it was only my second or third game back in the side after injury. We beat them 1-0 and stayed unbeaten to go on and win the league.
Best player I’ve played with: Mikel Arteta. He was at Rangers for a few years before he went south when he was 20.
Best left back: Ashley Cole is up there but I like Patrice Evra.
Greatest influence on my career: I would have to say my Dad. He has never missed a game and used to take me everywhere when I first started and was training three nights a week and playing games at the weekend.
Best moment of career: Playing in the last 16 of the Champions League against Villarreal at Ibrox. Everyone wants to play in that tournament and I was lucky enough to experience it.
Favourite meal: Italian.
Favourite music: I would say I like a bit of Hip Hop so 50 Cent although I like (Dr) Dre right now.
World figure you would most like to have dinner with: 50 Cent.
This article first appeared in the Canary magazine in 2010-2011 and is published with permission of Norwich City FC.