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Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith tells of surreal experience as 18-year-old makes his Bury Town and professional debut in a matter of days

Tommy Smith admits the last week has been a truly surreal experience for both Alex Henderson and himself – having made their senior football debuts with Bury Town before making their professional bows with Ipswich Town.

Both had never ventured out of under-18s football before they were drafted in on work experience loans to help plug Bury’s injury crisis at the end of last week.

The pair of defenders, who had Ipswich’s academy chief Bryan Klug and U18 manager Adem Atay watching on at Ram Meadow on Saturday, both looked comfortable during 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Coggeshall Town.

Tommy Smith makes his debut for Bury Town against Coggeshall Town following his loan experience move from Ipswich TownPicture: Neil Dady (23216929)
Tommy Smith makes his debut for Bury Town against Coggeshall Town following his loan experience move from Ipswich TownPicture: Neil Dady (23216929)

They then found themselves making their professional debuts at Peterborough United on Wednesday. Henderson played another 90 minutes while Smith, who is from Bury St Edmunds, came on for the whole second half, in a team featuring Bury-raised Brett McGavin, as Ipswich progressed through to the last 16 of the Leasing.com EFL Trophy, after a penalty shootout.

Smith, a former King Edward VI School pupil, said: “It did not really feel real, to be fair, especially with playing for Bury on Saturday, I did not even think about it at all.

“It was a really good feeling, especially being called up at half-time. I would have only expected to play a few minutes.

Alex Henderson - Ipswich Town Football Club Photocall 2019/20Picture: ITFC (23435827)
Alex Henderson - Ipswich Town Football Club Photocall 2019/20Picture: ITFC (23435827)

“I thought I actually played reasonably well, I did what I needed to do. It is hard not coming straight in.

“I thought I coped well and did not crumble and kept up with the pace of the game.”

Former Town U18s manager and England-capped Kieron Dyer had given an interview to website TWTD on leaving the club in August where he had predicted Smith would make his first-team debut this season.

Smith, who is delighted to get the chance to use his hometown club Bury as a launchpad for his professional career at Ipswich, admitted he had been motivated to back up Dyer’s high praise.

“Kieron Dyer came out and backed me to make my first-team debut over the season but I did not think it would come this early,” he said.

“I was always confident I was capable of doing it but when it happens it does not feel real.”

The 18-year-old, who has been with Ipswich since U9s, having been played previous to that with local team Moreton Hall, jumped at the chance to go out on loan with Bury, initially until the end of December.

“As soon as they told me about the move I was buzzing,” he said. “I got offers from Sudbury as well but there is no chance I am picking them over Bury!

“I came and watched games a few times when I was playing for Ipswich in younger years.

“It is good getting the experience and the physicality that the league brings. At under-18 level you don’t get the strength and different types of play you might have in this sort of league with these sort of players.”

Smith said fellow Bury St Edmunds-raised players Jack Lankester and McGavin had both highly recommended the move to him.

“They said it was a good move and said when they went there they liked it and obviously they have done really well and it has helped them with their careers,” he said.

Having Henderson alongside him for both Bury on Saturday and with Ipswich on Wednesday is also something he thinks worked in his favour.

“I am used to playing with Alex as a left centre-back for many years now,” he said. “We have always got that good connection and chemistry down the left side.”

Manager Ben Chenery thanked Ipswich Town for the ‘privilege’ of being able to help develop both players and said of their debuts on Saturday:

“I thought they were both excellent."

He hopes to have both available for tomorrow's derby at Histon (3pm).