The Ballad of Christian Smith

>So Christian Smith has gone on loan to Newport County. It’s an odd deal, but then that’s in keeping with his bizarre career at Wrexham.

Few players have divided Wrexham fans like Smith in recent years, and I’m sure plenty of you have actually vacillated between one camp and the other as his career has waxed and waned.

There’s nothing terribly surprising about that, I suppose. After all, players do go through peaks and troughs of form and young ones more than most. Probably due to his size, it’s easy to forget that Smith is still a young, inexperienced player. Throw in Facebookgate and you’ve got one divisive character.

What throws me about him is how the way he’s perceived seems to be in pretty much the opposite of how his manager sees him. He didn’t show much promise under Brian Little, but seemed to be popular with the hierarchy at the club (if his rather public correspondance with Simon Brown is to be believed, because he was Martin Foyle’s blue-eyed boy.)

Dean Saunders, on his arrival, seemed to be smitten by him (he did compare him to Franz Beckenbauer after all!) and seemed to see him as a bit of a project, to many others’ bemusement. When he left after his social networking scandal, few people shed a tear. Foyle took him to York, where he couldn’t earn a contract. It seemed he’d be a brief footnote in the club’s history, and nobody was too disappointed by that thought.

Plenty were upset by his surrepticious return though. Quietly slipped into pre-season games, explained away as a favour to help him gain fitness as he looked for a new club, his eventual permanent return wasn’t popular. Saunders gave him a regular place, and at first he seemed a negative cog in a moribund team. That impression was further encouraged by the fact that Saunders tended to encourage him to break forwards while Andy Fleming held, when surely the opposite configuration made more sense.

However, his form picked up, and by the Summer he was starting to look like Saunders might have been right in the first place.

The way he was pinging the ball around from the back in last Summer’s friendlies even made Saunders’ Beckenbauer claim seem understandable (to an extent!) Once he broke into the side he gave us balance as a defensive midfielder, finally playing in his best position, and hit a surprising seam of goals despite his deep position as well. It looked like he’d finally found his niche and was likely to show us what he could do.

Then suddenly nothing. He hasn’t played since mid-September, amid rumours of a falling out with members of the management. Who knows what the reason is; the rumour-mongers are encouraged by the peculiarity of him hitting the best form of his life, then suddenly finding himself totally out in the cold for the first time.

So now he’s sent out on loan to Newport. It seems very unusual that we should loan a player to a club which is higher than us in the table; is our desire to trim the wage budget such that we’re willing to help our rivals? But why should I be surprised? Everything about Smith’s career so far has been contradictory. Don’t be surprised to see him voted player of the season by the end of the campaign!

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