Feb 26, 2013, 12:33 PM EDT
The “footballing” name on so many tongues today in England is not Gareth Bale or Frank Lampard or Robin van Persie. It is Matt Smith.
Yes, that Matt Smith.
Smith is the scoring darling at Oldham, the lowest-ranked team still alive in the FA Cup, still standing as the lower-tier symbol of what everyone loves about England’s highly romanticized tournament.
Oldham, struggling in England’s third tier, have managed nonetheless to knock out Liverpool and then, through a late equalizer, to force a replay with Everton after a 2-2 draw earlier this month.
Everton hosts Oldham in a fifth round replay today at 2 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel. A match preview from Sky Sports is here.
Smith is the big forward who scored twice for Oldham in the giant-killing win over Liverpool. He also made the injury-time moment against Tim Howard and Everton in the dramatic 2-2 draw.
As for what you didn’t know about the big (he’s 6-6) fellow: He was once so unsure about ever hammering out a career in pro soccer, his studies at an England university brought Smith to the United States for a year. So the man now on top of the world in England once played for Arizona State’s club soccer team. (The university does not have an official NCAA program.)
That was surely one big sledge hammer of a club team.
As for how Smith is handling all this: the Oldham striker was Soccer Today last weekend (a weekly radio show I host along with Marc Stein). Here’s what he told us about his crazy life as a media darling thanks to his recent heroics:
It’s been pretty crazy if I’m being honest with you, obviously, going from relative obscurity to making national headlines and international things like all this [the interview in America], it’s been mental. It’s obviously very flattering, a lot of the press that’s been written about me, and a lot of people wanting to congratulate me and all this.
“It’s been great, but at the same time, as a player, it’s important to try to remain level headed and grounded. And not get too too carried away. Obviously it’s been a phenomenal FA Cup for me, and I’ll never forget it.
“But at same time, from a personal point of view, I want to progress. It’s about finding that consistency week in and week out, not just having these great games, but doing in on a consistent basis.
By the way, about the odd sounds you hear in the background on the link above: We did that show live from the American Airlines Center, where three of the NBA’s biggest soccer fans, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, were about to meet on the court. Players were out for early shoot-around during the show.
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