Smith delighted to get his chance under new Cobblers boss Hasselbaink
George Smith is in no doubt new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is going to revitalise the club, and get the very best out of the Cobblers players.
The former Gateshead wing-back has been the surprise pick in Hasselbaink’s first two games in charge at Sixfields.
Under previous manager Justin Edinburgh, Smith was allowed just a nine-minute cameo in the Carabao Cup defeat at Queens Park Rangers at the beginning of August.
He hadn’t tasted any Sky Bet League One action until last weekend, when Hasselbaink, clearly impressed with what he had seen in training, selected Smith on the left side of midfield for the home date with Doncaster Rovers.
The 21-year-old made an instant impact, setting up Matt Crooks for the only goal of the game after just 21 seconds as Donny were beaten 1-0, with the Cobblers claiming their first victory of the season and Smith the man of the match award.
The former Barnsley man started again on Tuesday as Town immediately doubled their points tally with a 3-1 win over Portsmouth, and although he wasn’t as influential, Smith gave the team a real balance that has been missing for most of the campaign to date.
The team suddenly looks solid and organised, and Smith says that is all down to the influence of Hasselbaink.
“He is a man for detail and that is what we needed,” said Smith when asked about the impact of the former Burton Albion and QPR boss.
“We needed detail, we needed organisation, we needed, like we saw on Saturday, to be resolute.
“We went a goal in front, but as everybody has seen this season when we have gone a goal behind we have kind of caved in a little bit. That won’t happen now with the new man in charge, the gaffer won’t let that happen.”
Asked to expand on what difference Hasselbaink has made compared to life under Edinburgh, Smith added: “It is just more organised.
“Jimmy got us more organised, resolute, and every session when he came in was about what is going to be happening on Saturday.
“That was the main thing, how Doncaster were going to play, how we were going to play, to combat what they are good at and combat what they are bad at.
“That was what we did on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
“They were long sessions but it paid dividends on Saturday, three points, the first win, and a real monkey off our back now.”
A summer signing from National League side Gateshead, Smith admits it was frustrating to find himself out of the starting 11 under Edinburgh.
But he says he always had belief that he would get his chance, and that he just ensured he trained hard and was ready to go if selected.
“I wouldn’t have said I was out in the cold, I was always involved in the first team and stuff like that,” said Smith when asked about not starting a game under Edinburgh, the man who signed him back in May.
“Selection is just part and parcel of football, one week you might be in, the next you might not be, but I bided my time.
“I kept persevering, I didn’t get down about things, and obviously the new gaffer has come in and I have ended up playing, so I am happy.”
The irony about about Smith’s non-selection under Edinburgh is that he is the one specialist wing-back in the Cobblers squad.
The former Town boss, who was sacked on August 31, played the wing-back system in the first four league games of the campaign, but didn’t turn to Smith.
Now Hasselbaink has come in, he has seen his potential as a wide midfielder, and Smith is comfortable playing out there.
“All last season when I was at Gateshead, I played at left wing-back, which Justin Edinburgh did play at the start of the season here,” he said.
“That involves more attacking than defending, and you are the wide outlet.
“So I have the knack of being more of an attacking full-back than a defensive one, so moving to left wing becomes second nature to me.
“Obviously you have to get used to the positioning and stuff like that when we are defending, because that is a little bit different, but with more games and time, that will come.”