BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
RAITH ROVERS loan star Liam Smith is adamant he did not need to think twice about making the move to Stark’s Park – because he is behind one of the best defenders in Scotland in the Hearts pecking order.
The gifted youngster has joined the Fifers until the end of October after Rovers skipper Jason Thomson was ruled out with tendonitis of the knee.
Smith, 20, insists he is relishing the opportunity to cement a starting berth under Gary Locke at Raith, having been unable to dislodge Scotland’s new first-choice right-back from the Hearts side.
While this term has heralded his European debut with appearances against FC Infonet and Birkirkara, he has enjoyed just three league outings for the Jambos and is determined to impress during his stint on the other side of the Forth.
Smith said: “With Callum [Paterson] not leaving in the transfer window, I’ve been on the bench in the league, so I jumped at the chance to come and play games.
“After you get a taste for [first-team football] you always want to keep going and keep playing, but I was happy to bide my time because of the top player Callum is. You can see that with the fact he is starting for Scotland
“I’m not disappointed at all, Callum is one of the best right-backs in the country, and I was just going to be patient – but to then get the opportunity to come to Raith Rovers was great.
“I was at East Fife last season and I’m from over here – in Dalgety Bay – so it’s local and it’s perfect for travelling and regular football.”
The Scotland under-21 starlet turned in an assured debut when he was pitched into action during Raith’s 3-2 win over Dumbarton last Saturday, despite the fact he had not even trained with his new teammates.
He added: “I was at Hearts on Friday and then the gaffer [Robbie Neilson] pulled me aside and said that Raith Rovers wanted to take me for a bit. I was delighted to come and play games at a good level.
“I don’t know what the situation is with Jason Thomson but I’m here until the end of October and if I can play as many games as possible it would be great.
“The boys were saying before the [Dumbarton] game they wanted to stop the rot because they were on the back of three defeats.
“For the first hour, we were really, really good but we let them back into the game. But the victory was the most important thing, to put pressure on the teams above us.
“It was great to play a full game again, because I last played one at the start of the season in the Europa League.”