Ex-Dons midfielder could have chosen a career in cricket over football

As a youngster, the midfielder was given the ultimatum

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Former MK Dons midfielder Matt Smith wanted to pursue a career in cricket but was handed an ultimatum which forced his hand.

The Welsh international, now at St Johnstone, was a budding cricketer during his formative years, and played with both bat and ball at his feet at school.

Smith made 31 appearances during 18 months at Stadium MK, having signed from Manchester City in January 2021. Since leaving earlier in the summer, he the 23-year-old has run out 11 times for St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership.

Coming through the West Brom Academy, Smith was offered the chance to play cricket for a new school, but was told he would have to give up playing for the Baggies.

Eager to follow in his dad's footsteps - an FA Youth Cup winner with Coventry City in the 1980s - Smith stuck to football and last year, became the first player on the books at MK Dons to be a part of a World Cup squad when he was included in the Wales team for the tournament in Qatar.

But that achievement could have been a long way off had he chosen the bat instead of the football.

"When I was 14, I faced a choice between cricket and football," he told The Courier. "I wanted to go to a school to play cricket but they said I could only play my football for their school team. That would’ve meant stopping with West Brom and that didn’t make sense to me.

“I love cricket, I still do. It was a big part of my childhood. When football stopped for the summer, I played cricket. But the higher up I got, there were more demands. I couldn’t do two things at once.

“I spoke to my dad. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I enjoyed football more. I’ve always said I wanted to do better than him if I could. It gave me motivation.

“He said to me after I got called up for the World Cup this time last year: ‘I think you can say you’ve done better than me now!'"