Farewell '“ but may not be Pompey end of Michael Smith
Pompey are bidding to say farewell to Michael Smith.
But it may not be the end of the striker’s Fratton Park association.
Smith’s 93-day emergency loan arrangement ends following tomorrow’s visit to Hartlepool.
He will then return to parent club Swindon, with a future still to be determined following a fitful season.
The 24-year-old hadn’t scored for the Robins this term or during a loan spell at Barnsley before recruited by Paul Cook in February.
He has since registered four times, including the winner in Tuesday night’s victory at AFC Wimbledon.
Smith was the only fit striker for Pompey in that win which secured a League Two play-off place.
Conor Chaplin has now recovered from a groin problem to put himself in the frame at Victoria Park tomorrow.
Regardless, Smith is again likely to get the nod for what represents his final match.
Yet Cook admitted the forward will remain in his thoughts beyond this season.
He said: ‘Michael has been absolutely excellent, I think he has made a great contribution and we wish him well.
‘Certainly, it is something we are going to look at.
‘I am not going to start saying we are trying to sign him or we are not, we just want to finish the season strong and look at where we are as a club.
‘He is not your stereotypical big man.
‘Normally, your big man up front is the one who peels off to the back post and it’s headers down.
‘Yet Michael leads the line really well, has fantastic ability, a lovely touch, a lovely feel to the ball and has physicality to his game.
‘He never shies away from a physical challenge and also has a little turn of pace every now and again.
‘He’s a goalscorer who has got good goals for us.
‘When he came here people were looking at the fact that he hadn’t scored this season – but he has needed games.
‘Just like Marc McNulty and Conor Chaplin, if these lads don’t play regularly you will never know and that sometimes is why you have to be careful how big your squad is.’
Smith has also struck up a profitable double act with Gary Roberts, who operates a little behind in Cook’s 4-2-3-1 system.
The pair have started nine Pompey matches together – reaping six victories.
And the Blues boss believes their work-rate at Kingsmeadow in midweek demonstrated the effectiveness of their ongoing presence.
Cook added: ‘Michael and Gary Roberts were excellent the other night, how hard they worked was one of the key points to our game.
‘That is how we like to play. We like to work from the front, we like to put people under pressure and close them down because then they are just clearing the ball – and clearances you should be able to defend. Quality passes are harder to cope with.
‘That is how you function as a team.’