Defender speaks to iFollow the Vale after signing new two-year contract at Vale Park.
- Nathan Smith | “I am ecstatic and over the moon to be looking forward to another couple of years”
- Defender delighted to extend Vale Park stay until the summer of 2025
- Smith, 27, could break into the top 10 all-time Port Vale appearances in the 2023/24 season, with his next game for the club bringing up 350 in all competitions
Port Vale defender Nathan Smith says he is becoming more of a leader and carrying more responsibility within the squad as he approaches 350 Port Vale appearances.
Smith, 27, has committed his long-term future to the Valiants by signing a new two-year contract this weekend, and speaking to iFollow the Vale after a 2-0 win against Bristol Rovers saw the Valiants take a huge step towards League One safety, he said he “ecstatic” to sign his new contract.
“It has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now,” Smith said. “It has been quite easy sailing between me and the club but to finally get it done, especially after all-but securing League One safety, I am ecstatic and over the moon to be looking forward to another couple of years.
“Me and Flicker [David Flitcroft] have spoken about where the football is going, where the club is going and how I feel about the place. It just feels right to continue my journey here and I haven’t got a bad word to say about the place; I have been here since I was 13 through the Academy, they have always looked after me and they have done so again – it was an easy yes.
“As I am getting older and more youthful players are coming in, especially the likes of Will [Forrester] and Aaron [Donnelly] playing alongside me, they can also ask questions and lean on me for advice on the football pitch. I feel like I am becoming more of a leader, there is more responsibility on my lap and I am really enjoying it – it is another reason why I wanted to continue my stay here.”
Smith made his first Vale appearance back in August 2016 as a 20-year-old in a 0-0 draw at Bradford City.
He is likely to make his 350th appearance for the club before the end of the season and, all being well, will move into the top ten for all-time Port Vale appearances next season as he sits just 23 appearances short of Basil Hayward’s 372.
Asked about the potential milestones, he added:
“Every time I hear those stats you pinch yourself because when I first got into the first team it was about racking up one, two, three and four, and now when you say I am one away from 350, it is one of those things that makes me really proud to be a local lad and do it for my local team.
“I am sure it is something I will look back on when I am older and retired and look at what an achievement it has been.
“I have grown as a player on and off the pitch; all the different people I have played with, I have picked up little bits and have become more of a whole player. I have started to adapt my game and my weaknesses and striving to do the best I can.”
Smith’s first team journey at Vale Park began with relegation from League One in 2016/17, though he has been a mainstay of the club throughout the journey back to the third tier and has featured in all-but-one of the Vale’s games on our return to the level this season.
Speaking about the club’s progress since he made his debut, he added:
“It is night and day; it shows the positive attitude the owners have for the club and where they want to take it,” Smith explained. “They have taken it in their stride and they are not stopping, which is nice. From the club it was, to what it is now, you can see the difference and you can see the difference on the field too.
“If you get the structure right at the club, the playing stuff is a lot easier and the players don’t have to worry about anything that is going on behind the scenes because that is all taken care of.”
While Saturday’s win over Bristol Rovers makes it increasingly likely that the Valiants will be playing League One football next season, Smith says there is still plenty to play for in the final two matches, placing an importance on taking momentum into the 2023/24 campaign.
“It is something we have been striving for and it is a monkey off our back to finally get a win and move in the right direction,” Smith said. “The players have been hungry for it, but to finally get that win – especially at home – was really nice and we can enjoy our football again in the last two games and hopefully finish with as many points as we possibly can.
“We want to finish with the most momentum possible to take into pre-season next year; we are still in the mindset of one game at a time, we are not worrying about Plymouth at home yet, it is all about Charlton and we are going to build towards that and hopefully get some more points.
“We are a hungry group of players that doesn’t want to roll over now we have near enough secured safety. We want to keep working and momentum is massive in football, so if we can take that little bit of a high into pre-season then we can start next season on a winning streak.”