Liam Smith is looking to “kick on” at Newcastle United – after netting a professional deal.
The South Shields-born midfielder was offered a contract by the club late last season.
The lads that got a chance (last season) earned it. It just shows that if you work hard enough, you’ll get your chance at Newcastle.Liam Smith
Smith had battled back from two major back injuries to earn the pro deal.
And the talented playmaker is hopeful of pushing on next term.
“It’s probably the longest one (contract) I’ve had since I was about 15 or 16,” said Smith.
“When you come to the end of your contract, you’re thinking every pass matters.
“It plays on your mind a bit – you’re nervous before games – but now I can relax and play without that weight on my shoulders.
“Hopefully, I can kick on next season.”
Smith – who attended Cleadon Primary School and Whitburn Comprehensive – is hoping the injury problems which have blighted his career are now behind him.
The 19-year-old suffered a stress fracture in his back in October 2012, and was out for six months, before succumbing to a similar injury the following term that kept him out for another three months.
“It was an absolute nightmare getting physio every day and seeing the lads going into training,” said Smith.
“It was mentally draining more than anything. It’s not just the physical side, it’s the mental side.
“I’m through it now hopefully. I’m just happy to be playing.”
Teenagers Rolando Aarons, Adam Armstrong, Lubomir Satka and Callum Roberts all featured for Newcastle’s first team last season.
And Smith, encouraged by their progress at St James’s Park, believes if you’re good enough at United, you’re old enough. He said: “The lads that got a chance (last season) earned it. It just shows that if you work hard enough, you’ll get your chance at Newcastle.”
United also offered striker Tom Heardman and defenders Jamie Sterry and Macaulay Gillesphey professional contracts in March.
Meanwhile, Academy graduate Paul Dummett is hoping his versatility will prove a strength for him at Newcastle.
The defender, 23, said: “I don’t mind where I play.
“As long as I’m playing and doing a job for the team in whatever position the head coach wants me to play, then I’ll play that role.”