Great signing: Fulham purchase Matt Smith from Leeds Utd

I like the Matt Smith signing. I remember watching him a couple of times when he was at Oldham. They played Liverpool and Everton in the cup and for some reason I had access to the TV.

What struck me about Smith was that he had this transcendental power. Power that – if harnessed – any team will struggle to defend.

High balls into the area are a great leveller. Sam Allardyce understands this and so does Tony Pulis. I don’t care if you’re Ferdinand and Vidic or Puyols and Pique, if the ball’s crossed with some accuracy, technical ability goes out of the window. If you want to defend it you have to compete physically. This is partly how Graham Taylor was able to get Watford promoted from division four to division one in short order in the 80s.

While researching my book on Roy Hodgson I talked to Richard Latham, a reporter in Bristol, who remembered briefings with Roy and Bob Houghton:

“He and Bob both spoke the language football wise, both very technical, very committed, and Bob had the press in with a blackboard explaining how Bristol City were supposed to be playing. I do remember something had just emerged, the POMO zone. Bob reasoned that every time the ball went into the POMO zone it was a chance, somebody should really have got on the end of it. He’d come out of games saying how many chances they’d had, but the goalkeeper hadn’t had to make a save. His reasoning was that the ball was in an area where they should’ve got to it, but nobody did. So I’ll always remember the POMO zone and I imagine Roy was into that sort of thing too. They were very technical coaches and sang from the same hymn sheet, but very different personalities.”

The point of all this was, simply, to get the ball into the danger area, to cause chaos, and to take advantage when the ball fell to the right man. (the background to all this was some dodgy but detailed analysis by Wing Commander Charles Reep, which Charles Hughes took on and made a central part of the FA coaching programme at the time. The analysis might have been suspect, but the long ball game it encouraged did work to a degree).

Now, this may not be what the puritans of SW6 want for their club, but it’s a legitimate approach and one that, dare we say it, has its uses in the Championship where as best we can tell, pretty football doesn’t seem to prevail as we might hope.

And Matt Smith seems to be the real deal if this is an option you want to take. He’s huge, but that alone doesn’t help if you can’t use this size, if you can’t compete, if you can’t put the fear of god into defenders every time the ball’s in the area. As best I can tell, Smith has all this in his locker. It’s too easy to write him off as a big lump: that won’t do in today’s game. The Championship is still a remarkably strong league. If Smith was just a big man up front he wouldn’t have stuck at Leeds, wouldn’t have scored the goals he has.

It raises other questions, not least how we’re going to provide the kind of wing play he’ll need, but on the surface this feels like a smashing signing to me.

(And dare we say it: if Magath was the embodiment of evil, wouldn’t Ross McCormack have warned Smith off?)

28 thoughts on “Great signing: Fulham purchase Matt Smith from Leeds Utd

  1. Interesting – and agree with the views on Smith. Will be exciting to see how it develops. (Am a little surprised, though, if he is as good as we think/hope he will be that he cost as little as he did when he had 3 years remaining on his contract. Almost as if, he can’t be good since he’s so cheap!)

    I had to google POMO (Position of Maximum Opportunities – for the benefit of any other readers who didn’t know it).

    Not related, but I am impressed – with Google – that “POMO Zone Football” comes up with a results page where this CNN post is 2nd item (15 minutes after Rich posted it). Chris Houghton was first!

  2. Saw him plenty of times at Leeds last season. Very strong and good in the air but if he wasn’t 6ft 6 he would not be a professional footballer …simple as that….

  3. Good very well thought out review . We have been missing a strong tall target man since Zamora , so this will give us another dimension to our play . I would have liked to have seen Trotta been given a chance in this role , but another one Felix doesn’t fancy .
    What we do need is at least one good wide player . Kaca might have been the answer , but not really considered . George Williams looks the best of what we have at the moment . Roberts is more of a dribbler than a crosser , good as he is .
    Just on this , has anyone else noticed we are taking really heavy corners , with the ball going to the far side of the box . Good tactic , just as long as you have a good volleyer to collect the cross . But frequently everyone has migrated into the centre , so the ball goes out for an opposition throw in .
    No doubt Ross Mac influenced the signing of Smith . But we need the two of them playing up front , a little and large team – Toshack and Keegan for those with long memories rather than the comedy duo .

  4. Matt Smith is a top bloke. Intelligent, articulate and gives 100% on the park. But, as alluded to in an earlier post, he’s not a ‘natural’ footballer. Very powerful & unlike most big players has a good leap on him. I think the problem for us (Leeds) is that having a player like that up front encourages the easy option to lump it forward. Leeds are trying to get out of the habit of the ‘hoofball’ utilised by the last two managers and re-invent themselves as a passing side.
    You’ll need to watch out for that, but crosses from good areas into the box could pay dividends. I’ll be watching his progress with interest.
    PS – is McContract still fat?

  5. Matt Smith just doesnt fit into what clearly is a new footballing philosophy at Leeds…to try and play attractive football ! Nice lad and yes he uses his height well if you can give him the service but the tendancy at Leeds was to play Hoof ball whenever he was in the team and with the ball at his feet he was useless and as a ‘big unit’ his mobility is compromised. I always thought he was good to have coming off the bench for the last 20 minutes if you needed a goal and wanted to try some route one football as a last throw of the dice. Matt Smith is probably worth a bit more than the 750k you paid but then again Ross McCormack is worth a hell of a lot less than the 11 million you paid for him !

  6. No Ross Mac seems to have slimmed down a lot . Apparently cut out the Yorkshire puddings ! Last couple games he has looked good , but we are playing him on the wing , allowing him to take corners and free kicks , would prefer to see him in the box . He will come good and I think he & Smith will work well .

  7. In Ross Mc you’ve got a great footballer, Smith is the opposite end of the scale, can’t run, can’t jump, and is useless outside the box…. if the ball isn’t a perfect delivery he’s a complete passenger. I’ve watched Leeds for over 25 years and i promise this isn’t sour grapes, he’s the worst footballer we’ve ever had. Only use for him is bring him on with 10 mins to go if you are chasing a game and piling the pressure on in their box, then he’s useful, although any half decent big centre half will have him in his pocket. He looks like a Sunday pub player 99% of the time. With the quality Fulham have i’m surprised you’ve signed him and will be even more surprised if he gets any game time. Good luck

    1. Think its a bit harsh on Smith to say hes the worst we’ve ever had ! I remember a big lump called Lee Chapman who ended up wth 30 odd goals and won us the league title but he did get the service frm the greatest midfield ever ! Think Fulham hav got themselves a bargain to be fair i like Smith he’s gona need alot of service but he’ll get u goals ! Cant wait to see McContract back at Elland Road !

      1. Dave has a point, but so do you, because leading the line was really not what Berba did.

        From the sound of it, the point of comparison for Smith will be Paul Moody, similarly built and decent for us in what’s now called League One, but not seen fit to retain after promotion from there. He did sign off with a home hattrick, though, culminating in the hardest hit penalty in the history of football.

  8. I wish Matt Smith well at his new club. However, I am pleased to see that Leeds got a decent fee for him…. The good…Will score goals with his head if the balls in are pinpoint and works hard…….. The bad…everything else.

  9. The thing I find oddest about the Smith signing is that it happened on the same day that we loaned out our most natural provider of high balls for him to head in.

  10. Also think he’s going to be a useful addition. But I very much take on board what the Leeds fans above have said. Have a look at his stats from last year (accessible from whoscored.com). 47.3% pass success rate (301 successful passes out of 637 attempts). That ranks 316th out of 326 players). The 10 players worse than him: all goalkeepers. The 10 players above him on the list: eight goalkeepers and two forwards, Steve Davies of Blackpool (50.7%) and Steve Morrison of Millwall (51.9%). If he were in the Premiership only six keepers would have worse numbers than him and the first outfield players you see have a 10%+ lead on him: Carlton Cole (57.1%) and Benteke (60.7%).

    1. I agree with most the points here. His passing does seem to be atrocious, but whoscored rated him as one of the top 40 players in the Championship last year (one spot above Ross McCormick!), he was named man of the match 6 times (tied for 6th best in the league), and he won more aerial duels per game than anybody else in the league (including defenders).

      For the money, he sounds like he’ll be a great addition.

      1. Great points. While the passing stats I set out above aren’t good, by any means, Cole and Benteke have proven to be more than useful premiership forwards and it is in no way beyond the realms of possibility to think Smith can improve his passing to their levels in the future. He’s only 25 and has only been playing professional football for three years after all. For the price, its a hell of a signing.

  11. DiMatteo and Pulis are still available. We should act soon before other clubs snatch then up and before we’re doomed to League 1.

  12. This season, in fact this last two years is an absolute train wreck. Just when you think things can’t get worse they do. Reminds me of the Sanchez reign – not only was he incompetent but he was cursed with atrocious luck.

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