GARY Rowett insists Matt Smith has a “massive part to play” for Millwall this season and believes the big striker is “an underrated talent”.
Smith, 30, came off the bench with four minute left to score the winner in the south-east London derby against Charlton at The Den last Saturday.
Smith joined Millwall from QPR in the summer for regular first-team football, but has been on the bench in Rowett’s first three games.
Rowett, however, is a big fan of the striker.
“The first three games were different because we wanted that energy and mobility up front, and that’s key to how we want to play,” Rowett said.
“But I think Matt has a unique skill-set. He’s a good footballer and he’s had a great career. He’s very underrated in terms of his hold-up play and his link-play, not just in the air but on the floor as well.
“What you’ll find is Matt will suit certain games and certain games will suit Bradders [Tom Bradshaw] or Jon Dadi [Bodvarsson]. What we’ve got is three very good strikers and three very different strikers.
“If Matt’s coming off the bench he can change a game like he did Saturday. If Matt starts then it might be the energy coming off the bench that changes the game for us in a different way.
“Until I’ve worked with all the strikers for a period it’s difficult to know which ones are going to start and which ones aren’t going to start.
“All I can say is we’ve got really good options and Matt has a massive part to play in that. And I know it’s a little bit contrived to talk about finishers, you have it with Eddie Jones in rugby union, but it is important.
“We’ve had really good impacts from the bench so far and it’s really important to have substitutes that can go and win you the game. The last ten minutes in some ways are often more important than the first 80.
“You’ve got the likes of Alex Pearce, whom I know well, chomping at the bit to play. He’s been brilliant in training, brilliant around the place. He hasn’t started yet but he adds so much value to the squad.
“That’s how we see all of the players. Matt showed his value off the bench and that was fantastic.”
Rowett has had a whirlwind month since replacing Neil Harris. He has already seen another Championship manager walk away from the job, with Neil Warnock leaving Cardiff on Monday.
Rowett explained how he deals with the pressure.
“The first thing you have to try and do is separate the emotion from what the job you’re trying to do is,” Rowett said. “It’s really difficult nowadays with social media and with the press attention that any Championship side gets.
“Today’s society is also so instant. You lose a game you’re under pressure; you win a game and everything is great.
“You have to try and find a middle ground where you try to be methodical and not get involved in the other stuff. That’s the first thing.
“The second thing is you have to have some sort of downtime as well. It can be 24/7 and of course it is. But occasionally you need time to do something away from it that you enjoy doing, to get away from football for just a moment.
“That’s what I try to do. I’m out running or spending time with my family. I try not to be a football manger and try to be normal. That helps me, though it is a challenge because it’s a demanding job.
“But, listen, it’s no more demanding than most other jobs. Although in most other jobs you don’t get 20,000 people calling you an idiot if it’s not going well for you!”
Image: Millwall FC