New signing Michael Smith is eager to make a name for himself in his own right in his second spell with Ballymena United.
The winger’s first stint at the Showgrounds coincided with the emergence of his namesake - now at Peterborough United and on the verge of a Northern Ireland call-up - leading even then manager Roy Walker to describe them as ‘Michael Smith I’ and ‘Michael Smith ‘II’!
It’s fair to say that the two players’ careers went in very different directions - while the defender moved to Bristol Rovers went on to forge a successful cross-channel career, the Dunloy-based Smith dropped into junior football before rekindling his Irish League with Larne, from where he rejoined Ballymena last month.
“Things weren’t going my way at that time - I thought I should have been getting more of a chance and I just threw the head up,” recalls Smith, who is still only 23.
“I was only a bit of a kid when I was at Ballymena before so I still have a lot to prove to myself.
“I thought I would drop down and see what happens, see if I could get a good couple of seasons behind me and then go again.
“Thankfully I got a chance to sign for Larne. I worked hard and thankfully got the move I was looking for and I couldn’t turn it down when it came.
“I’m a lot older and wiser now, even in terms of learning about the game and knowing how the game works.
“When I was younger it was just all about attack, attack - I didn’t know the defensive side of the role at all.
“But having played at left-back for a while at Larne, I’ve learned about the defensive duties you have, even playing as a wide attacking player.
I knew that was going to be a big ask of me in stepping back up to the top level at Ballymena so I just tried to prepare myself for it as best as I could.
Glenn told me he thought the time was right for me to come back. I did pre-season a couple of years back but I wasn’t as fit as I should have been, I was carrying a bit of weight and it didn’t work out well for me.
I knew I had the ability to do it but proving it was the problem.
Smith was given his first start in Saturday’s defeat at Ballinamallard and provided one of very few bright spots for Ballymena with an inch-perfect cross onto Matthew Tipton’s head for United’s first goal.
“I’m a natural left-sided wide player so I just try to get on the ball and go at defenders and deliver a few crosses and maybe chip in with a few goals - I just hope I can offer something different,” adds Michael.