Barnsley: Young Smith looks to follow in Stones’ footsteps

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Homegrown talent George Smith knows he has the opportunity to do something special at Oakwell.

And having seen how quickly former Academy graduate John Stones has risen through the ranks, no wonder Smith wants to take his chance with both hands.

Former Reds defender Stones was snapped up by Everton having played just 25 first team games.

England recognition and a multi-million pound transfer saga with a move to Premier League champions Chelsea this summer has dominated the national sporting headlines.

And although Smith knows he’s unlikely to shoot up the pecking order so quickly, the gifted left-back is firmly focused on moulding himself into a star performer.

“I have still got a lot of learning to do, but that all comes with experience,” said Smith.

“I have still got a long way to go, I know that, but I have always set high standards for myself.

“That’s something I’ve done right throughout my youth career – and something I’ve taken into the senior squad.

“I do expect to be perfect every time, but of course that’s not achievable.

“But if you set yourself high targets then you have something good to aim for.

“You only have to look at someone like John [Stones] to realise what is possible.

“He’s only 21 – and look what he’s achieved in the game already! It’s beyond belief.

“John has a massive opportunity to be really successful. In my eyes he’s going to be a future England captain, he’s that good.

“At the end of the day you’ve got to aspire to great things and see where you get. That’s the challenge and one which I’m really enjoying.”

Smith burst on to the scene last year with his Boxing Day debut away to Preston and then three days into the New Year made his home debut for the Reds in the FA Cup against Championship club Middlesbrough.

The former Academy player went on to play 19 teams for the first team and showed his maturity this season with just one yellow card, ironically in the club’s last game.

And this season the ambitious 19-year-old has carried on where he’s left off, having started in seven of the nine matches he’s played for Lee Johnson’s side.

“The gaffer [Johnson] told me go away and work a lot of things over the summer before the new season,” revealed Smith.

“I did, I worked really and now I think I’m starting to see some rewards for that hard work.”