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Stevie Smith relishing chance in limelight

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The reappearance of Stevie Smith as a Rangers player might not quite be a Lazarus moment, but it doesn't seem far off it. Speaking to this likeable and still faintly bemused defender yesterday was only a further reminder of the strange whims and fates that football can throw up.

Smith has had to inhabit his own solitary, dislocated world for the past two and a half years. A recurring pelvic injury, followed by nine fit months when he simply could not get Walter Smith to select him for the team, meant the 23-year-old full-back has had to endure a prolonged trauma of being the forgotten man of Ibrox.

Since December 2006, when injury first struck him down, Smith has seen a bus queue of doctors, surgeons and specialists on his road back to full health. And then, when he finally got there earlier this season, he couldn't get back into the Rangers team.

The mental fortitude of Stevie Smith has been one of Scottish football's unheralded stories.

Now, he is finally back. It has required a dose of what Smith himself has been through - in the form of injuries to other Ibrox players - to finally hand him his chance again. Smith has played twice for Rangers in recent weeks and looks sure to start again today in the Homecoming Scottish Cup semi-final against St Mirren at Hampden Park.

The big question is, how has he survived it all? “The injury wasn't the hardest part - it was actually being back fit but not playing which was hardest,” he says. “When I was injured I couldn't be picked, so it wasn't much of a problem. But when I was fit, and not being picked for a squad of 26, then it was hard.

“The lads would be off to hotels the night before games to prepare, and I would be heading home for the weekend. That was the most difficult bit.

“Sometimes you have something like a mental block, where you think that nothing you can do will ever get you back into the team. But you need to get through that - you just need to come through the other side, and I feel like I am doing that now.”

The injury that struck Smith down, having established himself as a frisky and diligent defender under both Alex McLeish and Paul Le Guen, was a long-standing pelvic problem that he had wrestled with since he was a teenager. It got so bad during the dark days of 2007 that a whispering campaign started doing the rounds that Smith was finished as a footballer.

Even this season, when he tried to go out on loan to St Mirren simply to get back playing again, his luck was out when the SPL loan-rules meant he couldn't join Gus MacPherson's team.

“I've had problems in the pelvic area since I was 16,” Smith said. “But I had two hernia operations in the space of six months and the second one seems to have fixed it. I went to Belgium for three weeks to do a pre-season, just one-on-one with a guy there. I've not had a problem since I had my second hernia operation.

“I've been fit and playing for the reserves for most of the season. At the start of the season the manager asked me if I wanted to go on loan, but I said that with a good pre-season under my belt I felt I would have a chance of being involved in the Rangers first team again. Then I got another injury and by the time I'd recovered, the [August] deadline for going on loan had passed.

“So it has been a difficult time. I just wanted to play football again. I then agreed to go to St Mirren [in January] and spoke to Gus MacPherson on the phone. He told me to come to St Mirren and enjoy myself - that was the main thing. I hadn't been enjoying playing with the reserves and I would have liked to go there, but the rules prevented it.”

Of the rumours about his inability to ever be fit again, Smith revealed this strange, new phenomenon of the internet age, whereby everyone except the very person involved claims to know what the truth is. It is a surreal scenario.

“I heard a few times that I wouldn't play again at a high level,” he said. “But it bothered other people more than it bothered me. I knew within myself that I could get back training and back playing. My family and friends probably read more papers and more websites than I do, so it never bothered me as much as it did them.”

After his torment of the past three seasons, Smith, still just 23, finally has a chance to re-establish himself at Rangers. If he does so it will mark a near-miraculous comeback, not to say a remarkable feat of willpower.

“I was sitting two or three weeks ago just wondering again where I could go to get a game of football, but I've come in the last two weeks and played, and, hopefully, I've done enough to keep my place,” he says.

“I'm enjoying being back. I don't feel any pressure - for me, the pressure was not playing for two years and wondering what my next move was going to be. But I think I have to give myself a chance by playing out of my skin every time I get a start now. I want to show people that I can play here, and not just for three or four games, but for a long time.

“I hope I have a future here but the only way to make sure is to play well enough in the games I play. I'm not thinking about next season - all I want is to play games and enjoy playing for Rangers again. All I've ever wanted to do is play for Rangers and now I hope I have a chance to keep doing that.”


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Must of been tough on him but I like his attitude. It's great to have him back, almost feels like signing a new player and his hunger to succeed is exactly what we need. I hope he can continue to do well for us and that his injuries are behind him.

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Brilliant attitude and speaks very well

A lot of people tipped him to be out future captain and hopefully he can prove that we were right in the first instance

Is he just getting shifted at left mid just now because his defensive side might not be fully recovered?

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McCoist said in another article they put him at left mid because they felt he had all the right qualities for it. Delivery, Pace etc. He's right to an extent, but the potential Smith showed against the likes of Villareal at left back is something that shouldn't be forgotten. If he can keep fit, he will be a big asset. Good luck Stevie!

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Well said Stevie my son....

We really need Smith delivering those killer crosses into the box against the filth. That's been the biggest surprise to me -- the quality of the set piece from him. Something we were sorely missing.

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Stevie has actually aquitted himself as a decent option for left mid , a most unexpected bonus I have to say. His movement and willingness to press forward certainly gives us a little bit more zest. Of course , he brings a fine set-piece delivery to the side aswell - something we've been missing (on a consistent basis) for some time.

It's good to have him back and re-invented!

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good to see him back, i thought he would never play for us again. If he could improve on his defensive duties i would rather have him at left back than papac. Far better going forward and a better delivery than papac but papac is better defensively at the moment. If smith works hard and improves the way hutton did we could have one hell of a left back on our hands.

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