English League 1

Oldham's Smith enjoys journey

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Mon, 28 Jan 2013 18:08:00

Hull manager Steve Bruce has admitted he is struggling to bring in a new striker to replace the injured Sone Aluko.

Bruce's bid to lure DJ Campbell from QPR has been placed on hold following initial talks and although goalkeeper David Stockdale has arrived on loan and midfield pair Robbie Brady and David Meyler have signed permanent deals during the transfer window, a goalscorer is proving hard to find.

"We're nowhere near anything at the moment, I've got to be honest and portray that," Bruce told the Hull Daily Mail after his side's FA Cup exit at the hands of Barnsley at the weekend.

"We'll have to see what develops, but it's proving to be a very difficult window at the moment.

"There's lot of names being bandied around, but we're honestly not close to anything right now."

Bruce's previous target Fraizer Campbell chose to join promotion rivals Cardiff earlier in the month and the Tigers have struggled in front of goal since Aluko was diagnosed with a torn Achilles two weeks ago.

The Scotland Under-21 international has been out for the past five weeks after undergoing knee ligament surgery but only just missed out on being passed fit for Sunday's incredible 3-2 triumph over Celtic in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final.

The Paisley side's stunning Hampden performance was built upon two impressive displays in the centre of midfield from 18-year-old John McGinn and on-loan Newcastle youth Conor Newton.

But despite knowing his place in the March 17 final with Hearts - which comes only three years after the club were humiliated as they lost the 2010 final to nine-man Rangers - could well be blocked by those same two team-mates, 21-year-old McLean insists he was only filled with thoughts of delight after their against-the-odds win over the Hoops.

He told Press Association Sport: "It was tough sitting out the game but I'm delighted for the guys in the team.

"In the changing room beforehand, all the boys were pumped up for the match, but I was gutted to be missing out.

"However, it has worked out perfect and now we have a final to look forward to. It's not too far away and hopefully I will be back in time to be involved.

"I can't get frustrated by the fact there are other guys in my position if they help the club reach a major final.

"It will be hard work for me to get back in the team with the likes of Conor and John McGinn and Jon Robertson playing well.

"I only just missed out on this game but I'll be back in the squad for Wednesday's league game with Inverness, so there is plenty of time to get myself fit for Hampden."

McLean has been tipped with a move away from St Mirren Park, with npower Championship side Wolves rumoured to be among those considering a bid.

But with the January transfer window set to close on Thursday, the Buddies player is not expecting an imminent departure.

He said: "Am I happy to stay put for the time being? Yeah, I don't see why not.

"The last few transfer windows there has been speculation about my future. That is always going to happen but nothing has been put down in front of me or the club so I just try to forget about that."

The Reds boss gave a number of fringe players the chance to impress in Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round trip to Oldham but they were out-fought and slumped to an embarrassing 3-2 defeat.

Rodgers sent Gerrard on in the second half and the captain almost inspired a fightback at Boundary Park, hitting the bar with a fierce strike that would have drawn Liverpool level, but the damage had already been done.

Only three of the players Rodgers picked were older than 23 - Martin Skrtel, Luis Suarez and goalkeeper Brad Jones - and the Liverpool boss gave his young players a stark warning.

He said: "This is a harsh school. This isn't a club where a young player can come in and have lots of time to settle, this is one of the biggest clubs in the world, so you need to understand that every game you play is a cup final.

"And yesterday we had one or two that were too soft, simple as that. If you want to have a career at a club like this, you've got to be tougher than yesterday.

"It was only when Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing came on that we played anywhere near the intensity and tempo that we would expect. When you get the opportunity, you have to take it. If not then it can be very difficult for you.

"Yesterday hurt, very much so. But as the manager it gives you even greater motivation to push on. You learn things about players because if we're going to progress we need to make sure we have a group that's hungry in every game.

"It's where the admiration of the likes of a Steven Gerrard and the Jamie Carraghers of this world comes from. You look at Steven yesterday - take away his quality, just his sheer enthusiasm for the game.

"He absolutely flipped the game on its head. It was fantastic but he does that every day of his life, and that's why he's a world-class player.

"Our young players, they won't have a greater role model to follow, and they're in pole position to learn, because they're seeing him every single day.

"If they're bright enough, they'll learn from him, and then hopefully they can be here for a long time.

"If not, they might find themselves playing in League One later on in their life, and they'll regret the opportunity they had of looking at a world-class player every day and learning."

Rodgers has boosted his squad already in the transfer window with the signing of striker Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and Inter Milan playmaker Philippe Coutinho is expected to complete a move shortly.

The two clubs are understood to have agreed an ?8.5million fee and Coutinho is expected to undergo a medical on Tuesday, although the biggest hurdle for the Reds may be obtaining a work permit for the 20-year-old.

Rodgers was again reluctant to discuss the deal, and he acknowledged Liverpool's weaknesses will take a number of transfer windows to address.

He described Sunday's loss as a "growing pain" and said: "We know in this window it was never going to be fulfilled but I think yesterday probably highlighted that, when we do change the team around, that we don't quite have that bit of depth yet.

"It was another marker in the fact that we want to improve the group and that's something I'm sure we'll do over the coming windows.

"If we can add another player in this window, if not more, then great. If not then we'll look in the summer to keep the building process going."

Latics hero Smith tried to put Sunday's two-goal match-winning performance to knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup into perspective on Monday.

Just over 18 months ago, the 23-year-old was playing non-league football for Solihull Moors after spells at Redditch and Droylsden once he had completed his education.

Having originally been released by Cheltenham aged 18 and choosing to take a degree - International Management with American Studies at the University of Manchester, where he shared kick-abouts with comedian Jack Whitehall - he could appreciate more than most the achievement in knocking out the seven-time winners from the Premier League.

"Without a doubt, this is my career highlight. I won't be forgetting this for a very long time," he said.

"The days of living in student slums in Fallowfield, playing part-time football on ?80-a-week is a big difference to finding yourself playing Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

"From my position it is easier to appreciate these victories because I am fully aware of reality so I am absolutely over the moon.

"I always wanted to play football every since I was a youngster but I took the academic route and I was not sure it would ever happen.

"But I never gave up hope and even at university I always tried to play at the highest level of non-league football I could.

"Just one good season and I get a move to a League One side and then you push and push.

"It is dedication and hard work and that bit of belief when maybe other people don't believe in you - self-determination and self-belief takes you a long way."

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