Socceroos left-back Brad Smith has reflected on his first season with AFC Bournemouth, detailing a “difficult” campaign after arriving at Australia camp in Adelaide.
Smith moved to the Cherries from Liverpool prior to the start of the 2016-17 season for a €3.6 million fee but made only eight appearances in all competitions.
Despite that lack of minutes, Smith has remained in contention for Ange Postecoglou’s national setup and was again called up to his 23-man squad to face Saudi Arabia, Brazil and then the Confederations Cup.
The Socceroos kick off their busy June period with a crunch World Cup qualifier against the Saudis at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, needing a win to move level on 16 points with the Green Falcons and fellow group leaders Japan.
Even having spent much of Bournemouth’s hugely fruitful campaign out of their best XI, Smith insisted he gained plenty of knowledge.
“It was quite a difficult season for me personally. It’s obviously tough to go into a new team when the team has been together for five years, coming up the ranks with the manager (Eddie Howe),” he said.
“So it was difficult for me to get a good run of games in, but I think I’ve learned a lot being in the Premier League and being with the manager, I think I’ve grown a lot.
“I think going into preseason after this, these games and the tournament, I go through fit and hopefully get a good chance to start the season.”
Australia’s form has stuttered during qualifying, though they remain undefeated and are back in the hunt for automatic qualification having beaten UAE 2-0 in Sydney.
Smith anticipated a performance similar to that game at Allianz Stadium, as well as the re-emergence of Postecoglou’s unique 3-2-4-1 formation.
“I think we’re in a good place. We’re still undefeated, we’re coming in with good form,” he said.
“The new formation came into play as well so we tried that and it worked really well against them. We played them (UAE) off the park, really on our home pitch.
“I think we just need to look into this game and look at where we can cause them damage and then just do the same as what we did, go in with the same attitude.”