The last time Southampton faced Manchester United in the FA Cup back in 2009 one of the rare highlights in a truly depressing day was the performance of Ryan Smith.
The left-winger showed glimpses of brilliance during the game but failed to match it with an end product, which, ultimately, seemed to epitomise his time with Saints during the thoroughly awful 2008/09 season.
Smith was released after Southampton’s relegation and, after a brief spell at Crystal Palace, found himself without a club and at a crossroad in his career this time last year.
Since then, however, the 24-year-old has gone about re-establishing himself and has become an important player in Major League Soccer.
Plying his trade with Sporting Kansas City – formerly known as Kansas City Wizards – Smith has attracted plaudits from fans and pundits alike. The London-born winger is even on the cusp of an international call-up to the United States national team.
After such an impressive turnaround I spoke to the former Arsenal, Derby and Millwall man to see how he is finding life in the States and his thoughts on Southampton’s appalling season.
Simon Peach: Firstly, how are you finding it in America?
Ryan Smith: Fine, I mean obviously I’ve been here since last year now. I enjoyed my first year out here and everything is still going alright.
SP: The last year seems to have been fantastic for you as this time last January you were without a club…
RS: Not so much without a club, I was talking to teams and I had just left Crystal Palace but that was the situation.
SP: There is a lot of talk about the standard of football out there. What do you make of it and what would you compare it to?
RS: I think it would probably be Championship standard, maybe even better.
SP: There seems to be a growing number of Brits playing in North America. Why do you think that is?
RS: Umm, to be honest I am not too sure. I can only speak on my behalf and my reasonings as other people come here for their own reasons. But I think it is by chance that a lot of British players are coming out here.
SP: There seems to an English contingent at Kansas as well. Is it nice to have them about?
RS: Yeah, I mean Craig Rocastle is my team-mate and we live together as well. We both knew each other before we came here so it worked out well. We’re like the main English guys in the team and stuff so yeah it is nice, definitely.
SP: How did the move out there come about?
RS: My representative told me about the interest and we took it from there really. Peter (Vermes, Sporting Kansas City manager) came out to see me in England and we decided to come out here and have a look and it worked out well.
SP: How did Peter sell it to you?
RS: He basically he told me that seeing that, seeing as I am half American myself, coming out here would be great in terms of my career and chances of a call-up for the US. He echoed what I want to achieve with my career and my plans, so it has worked well. I am happy with my decision.
SP: What’s Kansas like as a city?
RS: Very big and very distant, like you have to be able to drive to live here. Basically if you don’t drive you are in trouble.
SP: And what do you make of the standard of football?
RS: It’s a good standard and, like I said, I enjoy it. I was surprised, to be honest, because I didn’t expect it to be as physical and demanding as it is. It’s definitely on the rise as well.
SP: Looking back earlier in your career, did you enjoy your spell with Southampton?
RS: Other than Arsenal, Southampton had the best setup I have seen all round. It was frustrating at the time but it was was still an enjoyable experience and I made some great friends. I still keep in touch with the likes of Adam Lallana and I very much enjoyed it, it’s just a shame I dislocated shoulder and stuff.
SP: To the fans the whole Dutch experiment thing seemed a bit odd. What were your thoughts on it?
RS: It was weird but at the same time, to be fair, Jan brought me in and was nice to me. He didn’t treat me or anybody different. It was an enjoyable experience but was a bit weird, I guess. It was different. Nothing negative. I enjoyed it.
SP: As for the future, what are you goals?
RS: My main goal this year is the play for the United States national team and just to do well in general. Being half American everything is in order to play for the US it is just a matter of waiting for a call-up. And I’ve got personal targets that I want to achieve and I want to do my best to reach my targets. Life is not long, especially in football.