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First Team

Feature: Smith still the man to catch


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

As one of the elder statesmen in the current AFC Bournemouth squad, Adam Smith is showing no signs of slowing up – just ask his team-mates.

Only 32-year-old Junior Stanislas is older than 31-year-old Smith, the pair both veterans of the Cherries’ five-year stay in the Premier League between 2015 and 2020.

And when Scott Parker’s squad returned for the start of pre-season ahead of a new campaign in the top flight, Smith was again the man to catch in the gruelling 1,600m.

Designed as an early barometer of the players’ fitness, four laps of the training ground at Vitality Stadium under the watchful eye of the coaching staff is a drill few look forward to.

So why was Smith grinning like a Cheshire cat at the start of his heat?

“To be honest, I don’t think anyone can get near me!” he told afcb.co.uk, with Smith finishing well clear in his group.

“I was good at athletics at school and I’ve always been a good runner. We’ve done the 1,600m test for the past five years and it’s not something the lads look forward to.

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WATCH: Players kick-off pre-season with tough running session

“But it’s a good gauge for the sports science team to see how fit you are ahead of the new season.

“It’s not like I do extra work over the summer, I’m just fortunate to be naturally fit. It makes me feel young that I can still beat the younger lads.

“Pre-season is getting harder with each day and the staff are building us into it. It’s going to be really tough by the end of this week and then up another level next week.

“I can’t say we enjoy it. In some moments, yes, but the running is tough, I’m not going to lie. You just want to get the ball out and have fun but it’s something you have to do and we know that.”

With 143 Premier League appearances for the club under his belt, Smith also leads the way as the player in the current squad to have featured most for the Cherries in the top flight.

His tally includes five goals, ten assists and 25 clean sheets with Smith missing just two games when the Cherries came ninth in 2016-17, their highest finishing position.

Smith’s exploits in the top flight came during a memorable period in the club’s history when Eddie Howe’s team continued to defy the odds.  

“I seem to remember us getting written off every season when we were in the Premier League,” said Smith. “If they are saying it again, it doesn’t make any difference.

“You just have to work hard, take it game by game and see where it takes you. It’s a long season, even longer this time because of the break for the World Cup, so you just have to get as many points as quickly as possible.

“Things like that don’t motivate me because I don’t take any notice. I see it and hear it but it doesn’t enter my thought process.

“We had five seasons in the Premier League and everyone said we would get relegated every year. Maybe I’m just used to it and maybe the other lads might think differently. But I’m used to it now.

“People have been comparing the current squad with the squad which got promoted in 2015 but I think that’s unfair because the two squads are totally different.

“We’ve got more Premier League experience in this squad and I’d say we are more prepared for the Premier League this time round.

“In 2015, we were all at different stages of our careers and I think the current squad is much younger.

“I’ve had many discussions with the lads from 2015 and it’s so difficult to say which one was best.

"It was different personnel, different personalities, a different generation and football has changed since then.

“The league gets stronger every year and this season is going to be no different. The top teams are strengthening and getting better and better.

“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves and not worry about anyone else. We need to make sure we’ve got a team spirit, we’re fit and ready to go.”

Smith, whose next league appearance will be his 350th, has welcomed the arrival of new signings Ryan Fredericks and Joe Rothwell, saying added competition for places can only be a good thing.

“It’s very healthy for the squad,” he said. “I’ve seen it here every season, it’s football and it’s nothing personal.  

“There is always someone waiting to replace you, that’s the nature of the game and that’s what keeps you on your toes.

“You need a big squad in this league and there are five substitutes next season as well. I think that gives the bigger clubs a slight advantage because they’ve got the biggest squads and some of their subs are just as good as starters.

“But it will give us more flexibility to change our formation and to freshen things up in games if we need to. Overall, it’s going to be better for the league.

“It’s great to be back in the Premier League because it’s where every player wants to play. I’ve had a taste of it and loved every minute. We can’t wait for the season to start.”

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