Out of favour under Robbie Neilson and out of love with football, Cammy Smith says he has a new lease of life playing his part for Micky Mellon’s Dundee United.
Smith, a seemingly forgotten man towards the end of Neilson’s reign, was shipped out on loan to Irish side Dundalk in February as it looked like his time at Tannadice was up.
However, since boss Mellon’s arrival, Smith has played in each of United’s opening four Premiership games, setting up Nicky Clark to net the winner at Ross County on Saturday.
And the 24-year-old attacker insists he feels like a new man on and off the pitch after clearing his head over the summer.
“Since I came here it’s been frustrating,” the former St Mirren and Aberdeen man said.
“The club paid a fee for me and under the old manager it just didn’t really work out for whatever reason.
“I was frustrated last season so I went to try to play football and clear my head and I did that.
“This season I’ve came back in pre-season, worked hard and I’m feeling really fit.
“I’m enjoying coming into work every day and when you’re doing that it’s a big thing.
“The boys see a difference to a lot of players, not just myself, and long may that continue.
“I had a bit of time at home during the lockdown and I’ve managed to clear the head because it was tough last season, don’t get me wrong.
“I went away, worked hard and I’m back with a new lease of life and a new manager.
“I’ve had a conversation with him and he’s been good with me. All the boys have responded to him, not just myself, but I’ve enjoyed working under him and the new coaching staff.
“I just want to keep pushing and working hard. I definitely feel like a new person this season.”
Signed from St Mirren in January 2019, Smith has experienced the top flight with the Buddies and the Dons.
And the Aberdonian insists he is keen for more match action as he seeks his first start of the campaign.
He continued: “I want to play. I’ve had success before in this league with previous clubs and in the Championship with St Mirren but I want to play, I don’t want to just settle for the bench.
“But I’m not unrealistic, I also know we’ve got good players here and I’m here to push them.
“You ask any boy sitting on the bench on a Saturday, they want to play but we’ve got a good squad and we’re going to work together.
“If we’re going to do well this season, it’ll be a team effort and it’s going to take 18-20 players not just the 11.
“That’s the mentality we’ve got. I think that’s one of the manager’s strengths – he’s very good at getting a togetherness and everybody working hard for each other.
“Results like Ross County create that. If we get beat week in, week out it’s hard but wins like that and Motherwell create a strong team.”
With Celtic up next, Smith believes the ambition of Mellon’s squad means they hope to add to the seven points they’ve already collected.
Of Saturday evening’s clash at Tannadice, he added: “We’re taking it game by game really but it’s a good start to the season.
“We’d have liked more and feel we could’ve had more.
“We’ll go again with Celtic this weekend and we’ll approach that trying to get points from that game, too.
“We can’t look too far ahead, we just need to keep ticking them off and see where it takes us.”
As much as he’s delighted to be back in the team himself, Smith is also pleased for the young players getting a chance under Mellon.
Particularly fellow-Aberdonian Kieran ‘Sheep’ Freeman.
Smith commented: “Credit to the boys. We’ve all been 18-19 before and you just get thrown in sometimes.
“Sometimes that’s the best way and it’s been good for the boys.
“It helps when you’ve got good players around you as well so they’ll be enjoying it.
“It’s great days when you’re a young boy and you’re coming into a team that’s winning.
“Credit to the coaching staff for putting them in because you need to have that trust and belief.
“Some managers tip toe around it and are scared to put them in but so far it seems that won’t be the case.
“Kieran Freeman, for example, he’s not played for us at all and Liam Smith’s injured so it’s like ‘you’re the next right-back, on you go’.
“Some managers would shift personnel or formations but credit to the gaffer he’s thrown him in and he’s been repaid.
“I never realised he was from Aberdeen but I’ll be standing up for him!
“Sheep explains it – he should be proud of that.”
Saturday’s result put United in joint-third spot in the Premiership table with seven points out of 12.
Smith said: “It was a great win and I think it sums everything up about the squad and the team spirit the manager’s brought.
“Everybody is grafting like mad for him and each other more than anything.
“It’s hard when you’re not playing but boys are coming off the bench and making an impact, we saw that with the winning goal, but the whole squad is like that.
“We’ve got young boys coming in and it’s good to have that because they have no fear.
“There’s boys a few years older, like myself, at a good age and a few senior players so we’ve got a great blend and all is going well at the moment.
“It’s a good start to the season but we want more.”