Smudger Smith: Wayne Rooney must keep his chins up over weight

The Journeyman Pro

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The Independent Football

In a professional career spanning almost two decades, Simon "Smudger" Smith has played for over 67 clubs. The ultimate utility player, as his pace has diminished, he has reinvented himself time and again, from poacher to holding midfielder, centre-back to goalkeeper. Now that his website has been closed down, we have exclusive access to his column.

Wayne Rooney has this week been criticised for revealing that he tends to put on a few pounds during the summer break and I know just how he feels. The important thing is that he has a good manager on hand to lift his spirits. I felt really out of shape and let my performance in training get to me midweek but luckily the bossman was there to tell me to keep my chins up.

Another great striker, Alessandro Del Piero, had to make a decision even more difficult than Korma or Tikka Massala this week. Would the Italian legend go to Liverpool or Australia? Surely it was a no-brainer and he'd plump for the home of the best band ever? So it proved as he signed up for Sydney FC. The allure of Men at Work was simply too great.

Del Boy wasn't the only Italian maverick making headlines. Paolo Di Canio, also caused a stir. First the Swindon boss substituted his goalkeeper after 21 minutes. This was a storm in a teacup since it's not uncommon for a manager to want to change shape and freshen things up tactically by taking his keeper off early. It's happened to me countless times over the years and the success rate speaks for itself. Sometimes as a keeper you know you've not contributed to the 4-4-2. There are times when you just have to put your hands up. Unfortunately I often forget the best times are when shots are heading for the top corners.

The loveable fascist caused further controversy when he then had a pop at a defender. "Flint came in tonight as if he was on holiday," Paolo opined. We've all been there. I recall Rafa Benitez losing his rag with me for wearing goggles and flip-flops on the bench at Sunderland. Things went from bad to worse when the beach ball Ngog-ster and me were tossing around ended up on the pitch. Safe to say the sun wasn't the only thing tanning my hide that day.

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