LEE CLARK believes missing out on the immediate chance of further England Under 19 caps could be a blessing in disguise for Alex Smithies.
Town’s teenage goalkeeping ace has been withdrawn from the squad for this week’s European Championship qualifiers in Yorkshire because of a shoulder injury.
The decision came after as assessment by FA physiotherapy staff on the problem which kept the 19-year-old out of Town’s final game of the League I campaign at Leyton Orient.
Smithies’ place in the squad for the games against Bosnia at Doncaster on Wednesday, Slovakia at Bradford on Friday and Scotland at Sheffield United a week tonight goes to Norwich’s Declan Rudd.
The Town man, who has one Under 19 cap after regular outings in the lower age groups, could come back into the reckoning if England win the mini league and make the eight-strong championship finals to take place in Ukraine in July.
“Whether or not that happens, I’m certain Alex will get more chances at international level,” said Clark. “I know he’ll be disappointed to miss out, but in Alex’s long-term interests, I think his withdrawal is the best course of action because it gives him the chance of a proper break from football.
“He needs that for mental as well as physical reasons.
“If you’re not careful, young players can get on a treadmill of busy seasons with their club then international football, and four of five years down the line, you get burn-out.”
Newcastle down – see Pages 32 & 33.