Unexpected occurrences can happen in football, and young Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith is certainly aware of that.
On Friday night Smith was pressed into action as a substitute late on during the 4-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur U23s, with regular shot-stopper Deyan Iliev having to be taken off due to injury.
Smith managed to keep Arsenal’s clean sheet intact on his debut for the U23s but if you are not familiar with him then it is understandable.
The Hale End product signed scholarship terms with the Gunners ahead of this season having previously made the bench for the U18s in the league as a schoolboy.
This season, however, has been very frustrating for Smith as he has often found himself left out of the U18 squad entirely, with Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein sharing the goalkeeping duties at that level.
An injury to Hein, though, has opened up a chance for Smith, who made the bench for the FA Youth Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend prior to his call-up against Tottenham.
Arsenal have brought in Reading goalkeeper James Hillson on a youth loan as cover for Hein, but it seems that Smith is currently the youngster who is most likely to get a chance if further injuries occur.
Earlier in the season Arsenal allowed Daniel Barden to leave for Norwich City so that he could play more regularly and there was a feeling that Smith could eventually leave in similar circumstances given that he has been used so sparingly that he hasn’t even played for the U18s this season.
Now, suddenly, he is in the spotlight and will be aiming to gain as much experience as possible before the end of the campaign.
In a very unusual case, Smith has made his debut for the U23s before playing for the U18s. Now, after being incredibly patient, the 17-year-old will be looking to receive opportunities which can give him the chance to prove his credentials.