That headline may seem unusual to see on a site named English Players Abroad but Renny Smith is a Londoner through and through, despite his international allegiances.
The 23-year-old qualifies to play for Austria through his maternal grandfather and has represented the nation at under-18 and under-19 level. The situation reminds me of a certain Ashley Barnes who represented the same nation at youth level many years ago.
Smith’s appearances for Austria came whilst he was still playing in his home country. The midfielder was born in Epsom and went to school in Croydon, starting his youth football career with Chelsea. Then followed a two-year spell with their London rivals Arsenal, who he played in the UEFA Youth League with alongside future English abroad Dan Crowley, Chris Willock and Stephy Mavididi.
After two years with the Gunners, Smith joined Burnley, signing his first senior deal and it was with the Clarets that he experienced his first taste of life abroad, signing a loan deal with Swedish second-tier side GAIS. The midfielder made 10 appearances in Sweden, his first senior matches, and featured alongside fellow Englishmen Liam Davis, James Sinclair and Kieron Cadogan.
On returning to Burnley, the former Gunner was sold to Serie B side Vicenza where he would go out on loan again, this time to Serie C side Montova, which brough a first senior goal.The following year he made the move to Serie C permanent by joining Südtirol, a club based in South Tyrol, a largely German speaking area of Italy.
The 2017/18 season with Südtirol saw him make 29 appearances, his most in a season to date, and was enough to convince a club from another new country to make a move for him. This time it was FC Dordrecht of the second-tier in Holland who had acquired Smith’s services and he has been a regular for the club ever since. He missed just three matches in his first season with the club and this year has been much the same. The 23-year-old has also added goals to his game, with eight since he made the move to Holland. This year he shared the field with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, before the defender made the move on loan to Excelisor last month.
I got the chance to ask Renny a few questions about his career so far…
English Players Abroad: Your first move abroad came in Sweden, was it a big shock having to live and play abroad at a young age or did you find it easy to settle?
Renny Smith: Well before Sweden I had spent some time in Burnley so that got me used to living away from home, as I am from Surrey. In Sweden, I had some English players in my team and they were all friendly and so that helped a lot and of course most Swedish people speak English so the language wasn’t a problem. I was living in Gothenburg which is a beautiful city, which also helped a lot. In terms of the football, it wasn’t much of a shock when I am on the football pitch, I feel at home no matter where in the world it is.
EPA: You’ve since played in Italy and Holland, which country has been your favourite to play in and why?
Italy and Holland are two very different countries. I spent two seasons in Italy and it was such an excellent learning curve for me and an incredible experience. The culture is so different from England and of course not many people speak English so you have to learn Italian, which I managed to do in my two seasons there. Football is life or death for Italians and the passion for the game is wonderful. Also, the tactics are very thorough in Italy everyone is drilled and know exactly what to do on the pitch.
In Holland again the culture is different, however most speak English which helps. In Holland, the focus is more on the technical aspect of football rather than the tactics, there are many high scoring games. Each country has positives and negatives.
EPA: Did you notice a big step up from Serie C in Italy to the Eerste Divisie?
I would say the level is similar, again difference in style of play.
EPA: What are your goals for the future, would you like to play in England again?
My contract is up at the end of this season and I am hoping to make the next step by putting great performances at my current club. I would love to come back to England to play, however I wouldn’t say no to a step up somewhere other than England if the opportunity arose and it was a project that suits my ambition.
EPA: Finally, are you still hoping to be called up to play for the Austria senior team?
To play for the Austrian senior team would be a dream for me, and I’ll continually work to try to make that happen via my club football performances.