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Son of Welford Road deserves his spotlight

We’ve always had our big-name ‘galacticos’ at Welford Road, but this week the spotlight is on a more humble, homegrown hero as Matt Smith plays his final game for the Tigers.

Matt was, of course, born into the Tigers Family and came through the ranks to play more than 220 times for his hometown club. He played in just about every position in the backline – at full-back under Heyneke Meyer at Cardiff is just one that The Tig remembers, probably more fondly than Smithy does – on his way to establishing himself at outside centre or wing.

He has never courted the spotlight, even as he became a permanent fixture under Richard Cockerill and Matt O’Connor, but you need only to think back to some of the tries he scored (especially against Saints, like a true Leicester boy would want) and the big occasions he has been involved in to see what he’s had to offer.

When you’re done thinking of the glossy highlights, think hard to identify a missed tackle or a lacklustre day in defence. Go on, I dare you.

"This boy is a true Tiger,” Dosser said of his son as he passed 200 appearances for the club. And Dosser should know. He speaks more passionately about the club than anyone though, judging by Matt’s comments about what he wants to bring to the academy in his coaching role, it seems his son is ready to follow in his style there too.

As well as the skills and the rugby DNA, Smith Jnr has that core-deep resolve that makes for good players and good Tigers.

Smithy made his debut alongside Pat Howard, his then-coach, after playing in an Oakham School team with Tom Croft and England cricketer Stuart Broad. At Tigers, you can name the likes of Alesana and Manu Tuilagi, Geordan Murphy, Aaron Mauger, Ben Youngs, Niki Goneva, Toby Flood, Anthony Allen, Mathew Tait, Scott Hamilton, Matt Toomua and George Ford among his team-mates.

You do not keep company like that unless you are a very, very good player. And, other than Geordan and Youngs, Smith has made more appearances for the club than all of them.

Smith will now focus on a coaching career within the Tigers set-up as head coach of the academy. He has already said he will lean heavily on describing what it takes to become a Tiger to a group of talented youngsters. They will be left in no doubt.

Cheers Smithy. And good luck for the future.