NEIL LENNON’S search for a successor to Mikael Lustig will continue after Huddersfield’s Tommy Smith finally signed for Stoke City, a move reported by CQN last week.
The right-back agreed a three-year deal, with the transfer fee believed to be in the £4million region, as he chose to return to England’s second tier and snub the opportunity of playing in the Champions League in front of capacity crowds and millions watching worldwide.
Smith, 27, had been on Lennon’s raider even before Lustig quit at the end of his contract last month to join Belgian outfit Gent. It left the Hoops boss with a problem position as Costa Rican international Cristian Gamboa ended his three-year association at the club when his deal expired.
Scotland Under-21 starlet Anthony Ralston is the only recognised No.2 at the champions and the manager decided to go with central defender Kristoffer Ajer in the defensive spot for the first leg qualifying tie against FK Sarajevo in Bosnia last week.
Attack-minded Smith looked ideal as Lustig’s replacement after joining the Yorkshire side in the summer of 2012 from Manchester City and helping them to promotion to the top flight five years later. However, the defender suffered relegation along with his team-mates to the Championship after last season’s struggle.
Delighted Stoke boss Nathan Jones, speaking on the club website, said: “Tommy has been playing Premier League for the past two years.
“He was the outstanding right-back in the Championship the year Huddersfield got promoted.”
Lennon has vowed new faces could be brought in before the second round of Champions League qualifiers next week – providing, of course, there is no mishap against FK Sarajevo tomorrow night.