Paul Smith

Paul Smith is an English goalkeeper who was born in Epsom on 17th December 1979. Smith began his career with Charlton Athletic, but was released in 1999 without a single first team appearance to his name. He spent a season in non-league football with Carshalton Athletic, before signing with Brentford in 2000. Smith spent virtually all of his first season at Griffin Park on the bench behind first choice Bees keeper Olafur Gottskalksson. He made his debut for the club on 23rd January 2001 in a 1-0 win at Bury. In 2001/02 Smith eventually earned himself a regular starting spot ahead of Gottskalksson. He played in the clubs 2-0 play-off final defeat to Stoke on 11th May 2002. Smith missed just 3 matches in 2002/03, and was earned himself a reputation as one of the best keepers in Division Two.

In January 2004 Southampton signed Smith from cash strapped Brentford for £500,000. The former Brentford man was brought in as backup for Antti Niemi, and would have to wait a year before he made his first team debut, which arrived on 15th January 2005 in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle. Smith had actually missed earlier opportunities to appear for the St Marys outfit. Niemi picked up a few injuries in 2004, but every time he was out so was Smith. The former Brentford shot-stopper came up against his previous employers in only his third match for his new club, and received a warm welcome from both sets of fans in a 2-2 draw. Smith performed brilliantly in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal on 26th February 2005 and again on 5th March 2005 in a 1-0 win over Tottenham. Saints survived a late onslaught from both North London sides, thanks to some stunning saves. Once Niemi regained fitness however, the Finn was handed the gloves back and Smith was back on the bench for the rest of the season. Manager Harry Redknapp said it was a difficult decision, but felt that the more experienced Niemi would be of better use in a relegation battle.

Smith remained on the bench for the first few months of 2005/06, save for a couple of Carling Cup appearances. With Niemi set to join Fulham, Smith was given a run in the first team in late December 2005, with many believing he could quite easily be the clubs number one for many years to come. Things didn't work out though; Smith was dropped for new signing Bartosz Bialkowski in late January 2006. He was given another chance in March after Bialkowski injured himself in an FA Cup tie at Newcastle. Smith was quickly dropped for 37 year old veteran Kevin Miller however, which showed how much confidence manager George Burley had in the former Charlton trainee.

Smith signed for League 1 side Nottingham Forest in July 2006 for £500,000. He was Forest's number one all season, and helped the club reach the play-offs. The Nottingham side went one better the following campaign when they were promoted automatically after finishing 2nd. Smith kept 24 clean sheets in 2007/08, more than any other keeper in the division. On September 18th 2007 Smith scored his first ever goal in football in the opening seconds of a Carling Cup tie with Leicester. The goal came about after a previous clash between the sides was abandoned after Leicester player Clive Clarke collapsed on the pitch. Forest were winning that match 1-0 at the time, so Leicester sportingly agreed to restore the same score line in the re-arranged game. Leicester went on to win 3-2 after two late goals.

Shortly after Billy Davies arrived as Nottingham Forest manager in late 2008, Smith fell out of favour after a bust up with the Scottish boss. Lee Camp became the clubs number one keeper in 2009, limiting Smith to just a handful of appearances in 2009/10.

Smith fell even further down the pecking order in 2010/11, as Karl Darlow replaced him as second choice stopper at The City Ground. He joined Middlesbrough on loan on March 8th 2011 on loan as cover for the injured Jason Steele and Danny Coyne. Smith kept his place in the team when Coyne returned, but dropped out of the final two games of the season for Steele.