Much-maligned at Fratton Park, now ex-Portsmouth striker flourishing at Rotherham and seeking fourth promotion in six seasons
Tellingly, the enduring Pompey memory of Michael Smith is playing the drums at the League Two title celebrations on Southsea Common.
Performing his impromptu cameo while wearing a protective boot, it was also abundantly clear the striker was also a little inebriated. Still, he was in fine company that day.
Months later during that summer of 2017, he was training with Pompey’s Academy alongside Gary Roberts, having been deemed surplus to requirements by new boss Kenny Jackett.
Smith would impressively rebuild his career at Rotherham, where his goal-scoring consistency continues to bring him to the attention of Championship suitors.
On Saturday he will face the Blues, yet his Fratton Park impact is perhaps harshly overlooked, particularly his goal-scoring contribution during the memorable 2016-17 season.
Admittedly, he had been packed off on loan to Northampton for the final five months, thereby missing the stirring title charge.
Yet Smith had begun the campaign as Paul Cook’s first-choice striker following a summer switch from Swindon for an undisclosed fee.
The ex-Charlton man had sufficiently impressed Pompey’s boss during a Fratton Park loan spell the previous season, when he netted four times in 16 appearances.
Under terms of his 93-day agreement, he returned to the County Ground one game before the league campaign ended, ruling him out of the League Two play-off semi-final against Plymouth.
Still, Cook liked what he saw and recruited Smith on a two-year deal in June 2016.
However, he swiftly fell out of favour, while the supporters largely couldn’t take to a player seemingly affected by the strength of Fratton expectations.
Softly spoken and a northern lad who had in the past suffered from home sickness, Smith was also impacted by confidence issues.
There was a flurry of three goals in November 2016, including earning a point off the bench with a leveller at Cheltenham and netting in a 3-1 triumph at Luton.
That purple patch signalled a first-team recall and 10 successive starts. Smith had seemingly re-established himself.
Then, despite still in his starting XI, Cook sacrificed Smith on transfer deadline day in January 2017 to create the finances to instead bring Eoin Doyle in on loan from Preston.
Smith headed to Northampton – and never played for Pompey again. He had scored 10 goals in 37 appearances.
A subsequent switch to Bury was unsuccessful, yielding just two goals, but in January 2018 he moved to Rotherham – and flourished.
He has now netted 44 times in 170 games for the Millers, winning two promotions to the Championship.
In 14 outings this season, the 29-year-old has scored eight times, while weighed in with two assists.
On Saturday, Pompey will face a Michael Smith unrecognisable from more than four years ago and seeking his fourth promotion in six seasons.
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