“It’s been a massive rollercoaster, I’m just taking it as it comes and enjoying it, learning every day and just becoming a better footballer,” said Royals forward Sam Smith, after he was handed his maiden league start as a first-team footballer for Reading against Middlesbrough.
Playing in front of a Championship crowd is a world away from a loan spell at Bishop's Stortford last year in the National League South, competing in front of audiences humble in number.
Smith is one of five Academy graduates to have been handed first-team debuts this year under Jaap Stam - and, like Liam Kelly before him, he brings some experience of life in the sixth tier to the game!
“I remember playing on a cold Tuesday night and 30 fans were there. To play in front of these fans is just amazing.
“Being around these lads and becoming a better person as well, that’s the aim really.
“Yann Kermorgant is a really good one to learn from; he’s been playing for a long time, he’s achieved a lot in his career and he’s a good striker, so every day I can learn from him.
“Same with Jón Daði Böðvarsson – he’s an international and a great player. It’s good for me to watch what they do, copy it and take bits from their game and add it to mine.
“We just needed one of the headers or the shot that got saved… if one of them goes in and it changes the whole aspect of the game and it just wasn’t today.”
Indeed, despite Smith’s delight at getting a first run-out for Reading, there was a sense of frustration overall as Boro scored either side of the interval to earn a 2-0 win.
“Everyone is just frustrated, staff, players, everyone,” he continued. “There’s no doubt we’ll put it right but it’s just when we do it and when that right result will go our way.
“As soon as we get one, I’m pretty sure we’ll start getting a few. It’s all we need.
“That’s football, there are highs and lows. We’ve just got to stick together and hope that they start coming.
“As a team we started off really well, we created quite a few chances and we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“I think we took a lot from the game, learned a lot about ourselves as a team and hopefully we can take it into the next game on Tuesday.
“It’s just a few things that need tweaking, we’ve just got to stick together as a team and I know the manager’s doing everything he can.
“We’ve just got to trust him, trust each other and the results will come.”
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