The key factors that led to Korey Smith’s departure

by BS3 Talk ¦ @bs3talk

Korey Smith announced his departure from Bristol City on Sunday morning via Instagram, as communication from the club continues to disappoint fans.

A certified City legend, Smith was the last remaining member of the double winning side of 2014/15, and in the following six years continued to give his all despite growing injury problems.

The statement said: “Bristol City have told me they are not able to offer me a new contract at this time.”

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Having made 196 appearances for the club, Smith was ultimately deemed surplus to requirements with the club letting him go in difficult times. Here are some of the factors that led to Smith leaving BS3.

The Loanees

With the departures of Marlon Pack and Josh Brownhill over the course of a few months, a big central midfielder-shaped hole has been left at Ashton Gate.

The one (or two) saving grace(s) however, has been the loanees. Liam Walsh and Joe Morrell spent last season on loan at Coventry City and Lincoln City respectively, and both performed to extremely high standards.

Walsh swept up at the Sky Blues’ end of season awards, after notching up 10 goal involvements across all competitions, whilst Morrell picked up over 2,500 minutes in the East Midlands.

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Walsh was Coventry’s star man last season, guiding the Sky Blues to the League One title.

Another midfielder may be acquired from elsewhere, as the futures of Adam Nagy and Han-Noah Massengo hang in the balance – albeit for very different reasons – but the City hierarchy would’ve been a lot less worried about letting Smith go, with the two returning youngsters able to come in and fill the void.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the pair have the talent to not only cope, but thrive at Championship level. Whether they can transfer their blistering third tier form to the second tier remains to be seen, but if new Head Coach Dean Holden entrusts them with the task, it could yield fruitful results for the Robins.

Club’s finances

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While City’s model puts it at the forefront of well-run, sustainable clubs in the Championship, it could be argued that this limits the ambition and could be the same thing holding them back from promotion.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the club would have lost revenue on individual ticket sales, having to offer fans refunds; we also have no ideas about the rules for the new season which is set to start next month.

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Ashton Gate will continue to host football without fans for the foreseeable future.

This means fans have held fire on renewing their season tickets, advertisers will be uninterested due to the empty stadiums, and they miss out on all of the match-day concessions. This ranges from food and drink, to the club shop which are highly profitable.

It seems the lack of incoming revenue and doubts that still linger have caused this frugal approach – but it shouldn’t excuse a player of legendary status, on a manageable contract, being kicked out the door.

City have been run brilliantly under Steve Lansdown so far, despite what some fans’ opinions may be. Still, the club must answer for some recent decisions, especially since they’ve accumulated over £70m in transfer sales in the last four seasons.

Last big injury

“You know me, I always go in for those crazy tackles where sometimes I should have pulled out.” This confession from Smith when speaking to BBC Radio Bristol last October perhaps sums up the past 24 months for the industrious and devoted central midfielder, a time where many may wonder what could have been for Bristol City.

Since scoring one of the most iconic goals in the clubs 125-year-history against Manchester United in December of 2017, Smith has found himself on the treatment table as often as the Ashton Gate pitch. Indeed, the 29-year-old spent six months of the 2018/19 season on crutches following two major injuries, first to his knee, and then to his foot following a bright yet brief comeback.

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Smith being taken off again in a match against Reading, following a recent return from a long-term injury.

However the 19/20 season has been an improvement for the former Norwich City player, who has managed 1,686 minutes, more than the likes of Kasey Palmer, Nagy, and Callum O’Dowda. 

This dwarfs his total of 326 from the 18/19 campaign, evidence that could argue that he is over the worst of his injury troubles, having been a regular in both Lee Johnson and Dean Holden’s team selections following his return to action away to West Brom in late November. 

Smith, undoubtedly a Bristol City legend, has forged a path into City fans hearts in large part due to his dynamic, enthusiastic, and fiery nature, an approach which will inevitably lead to a greater risk of injury.

But with the likes of Walsh, Morrell, Massengo, and Nagy all yet to hit their prime, Robins fans may ponder whether the experience of Smith would have been worth attaining for another year, if only to act as a mentor for the sparkling youngsters emerging from Ashton Gate.

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