Smithies can break into England’s senior set-up, insists his former goalkeeper coach
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
QPR goalkeeper Alex Smithies has the capability to play for England’s senior team in the future, according to the man credited with playing a major role in his development.
In fact, John Vaughan – who worked closely with Smithies during his spell as goalkeeping coach at Huddersfield between 2006 and 2012 – believes he could already be at that level and plying his trade in the Premier League if it wasn’t for a serious knee injury he suffered back in 2011.
Vaughan told the Times: “I’ve got no doubt in my mind that Alex would have been around the England set-up now if it wasn’t for that injury which he picked up a few years ago when he was first called into the Under-21 squad.
“He was firmly in the England system and had represented them at every level up to that point, but that problem with his knee was a huge blow for him and that definitely halted his development.
“I think he probably would have left Huddersfield then if he hadn’t suffered that injury as well. There were a few Premier League clubs keeping an eye on him.
“I had the same goalkeeping coaches from those clubs sitting behind me week in week out. You were thinking it was only going to be a matter of time before one of the big boys came and got him. He can still get to that level in the future, though, 100 per cent.”
Five years on and Smithies remains in the Championship, but is now on the books at QPR after penning a three-year deal from the Yorkshire side last summer for a fee of £1.5million.
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Vaughan admits he was surprised that the 26-year-old made the move to west London, especially with a goalkeeper of Rob Green’s ilk at the club.
After struggling for regular football in the first half of the campaign, Smithies has now made the No 1 spot his own at Loftus Road though, with a string of impressive displays in recent months.
He added: “It was a bit of a strange one for me. There was a lot of talk about Rob Green going to West Ham in the summer, so maybe he thought he’d definitely be the No 1 at Rangers.
“I was surprised a Premier League club didn’t come in for Alex in the summer. My initial concern was that with the exception of injury since Alex was 17 he had been playing regular first-team football, but that isn’t an issue now as he is starting week in week out.”
The 51-year-old believes the Rs got a great deal by acquiring Smithies’ services last summer and says he would have learned a lot from working with a keeper of Green’s calibre.
“It was a good move for QPR for sure,” said Vaughan. “You’ve got a young keeper there who has played over 200 league games.
“To have someone of that age who has played that amount of games in the Championship and been such a consistent performer at that level is a real coup for the club.
“He can definitely make the No 1 spot his own at QPR. Alex is like a sponge.
“He would have been watching Rob like a hawk every day in training, especially earlier on in the season when he wasn’t getting in the team.
“He did the same with Ian Bennett at Huddersfield. If he thinks he can learn from someone he’ll watch them closely and pick up on their strengths and weaknesses.
“He’ll definitely be taking advantage of working with a goalkeeper like Rob and be improving himself.
“I’m sure they have a good working relationship, and despite the fact Rob now isn’t in the team he’ll be helping Alex out and giving him advice – after all he’s been there and done it at the highest level.”