There are few strikers in League One that are as highly thought of as Craig Mackail-Smith (CMS). It looks certain that he is destined to get his shot at the Premier League after giving his all for Peterborough playing 185 games scoring 80 goals. Fans in the Championship and League One may be used to the sight of his blonde locks streaking around the pitch, but a lot of Premier League fans may be thinking ‘Craig who?’, so let’s take a look at the interesting story behind this in-demand striker.
A lot of people were unsure whether Craig would make the step up in to the Premier League after a season in League One and the Championship may have seemed a more realistic stepping stone. But everyone seems to be interested in the 27 year-old, with reported bids already tabled from Wigan and Norwich as well as interest from QPR and Everton. But it doesn’t stop there, Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony has said between 8 and 11 clubs have made enquiries, but confirmed only two concrete offers. So why so much top level interest in a League One striker?
To some this may come as no surprise after the season CMS has had, scoring a career-best 35 goals and playing a major role in Peterborough’s promotion back to the Championship. Craig’s hometown club Watford will be disappointed that they won’t be in the running for the striker this summer, especially since it looks like Danny Graham is another forward destined for a shot in the Premier League.
Craig has always spoken openly that one day he would like to pull on the shirt of the golden boys and run out at Vicarage Road. Watford FC missed out on Craig as a youngster, for whatever reason he was one that slipped the net and was never signed up. Instead he was given his footballing opportunity by way of non-league football with local side St.Albans City.
Craig attended St.Michael’s catholic school in Watford and although a good player it wasn’t his football ability that was always attracting attention. CMS was a record breaking pole-vaulter believe it or not, smashing all school records and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he still holds them to this day. The same school also produced full back Paul Robinson who is currently with Bolton, so they are not short of footballing ex-pupils.
Former classmates commented that although Craig was a good player, he wasn’t a standout player within the school, but he was 300% committed to giving everything to football from a young age. Apparently after everyone finished their exams and began the booze-fuelled celebrations, CMS was in the mix, but only with an orange juice in his hand such was his level of dedication at a time when so many others would let themselves go.
His dedication paid dividends as he stepped up from youth team football at St.Albans City to make 45 appearances in total for the first team, but with a return of only 2 goals was released and picked up by another non-league side Arlesey Town. His progression at the club was a little better, playing 54 times and scoring 17 goals in the process. The highlight of his time at Arlesey Town was playing his part in knocking Dagenham and Redbridge (D&R) out of the FA Trophy. He obviously impressed during that fixture as Dagenham and Redbridge came back in to sign him.
He was only part-time at Dagenham until he asked the club to make him full-time, which they did. It was a worthwhile investment for D&R as Craig went on to represent England at ‘C’ level, which is a team made up of mainly semi-professionals. CMS had an impressive record for them, playing 7 times and scoring 4 goals. But it wasn’t England where his international future lay. Through his Scottish grandmother Margaret, he was able to qualify to play for Scotland and earned his first cap after coming on against former world champions Brazil in March this year.
Since the move to Peterborough he has never looked back. He has a great record for the club and is a fans favourite. He has always conducted himself well and gives his all for the club. He will repay the faith that both D&R and Peterborough showed in him when he makes his move with both teams benefitting financially. What a great investment he has proved.
This capped a truly great year in the life of CMS and another chapter in a great story. You have to take your hat off to someone who has truly earned their shot at their dream. If Premier League fans are wondering what they will be seeing next year it will be a player that doesn’t play that differently to how he did in his school days.
CMS is 110% effort and commitment every game. What he may lack in skill he more than makes up for in work rate. He is super fit and presses defenders high up the field at every opportunity. He possesses great movement and positioning and although he is not a natural finisher like a Michael Owen, he is not afraid to miss and will always find the net – his 35 goals this year proves that.
What is more important though is that Mackail-Smith has made his way to the top the hard-way. It is a pity more players cannot dedicate themselves in the same way that Craig has. A great role model, true professional and a nice guy, it will be good to see him on Match of the Day next year. Whoever he signs for will be getting one hell of a player.
Here’s the lad in action: