IRISH LEAGUE: Linfield wonderkid Paul Smyth loving life in the Danske Bank Premiership

Paul Smyth is held aloft after scoring against Glentoran on Boxing Day
Paul Smyth is held aloft after scoring against Glentoran on Boxing Day

Linfield wonderkid Paul Smyth admits he loves the rough and tumble of the Irish League.

The 18-year-old has blasted onto the Danske Bank Premiership scene with a series of blistering displays for the Blues.

Smyth’s transition from reserve football to the top-flight has been seamless, with last week’s derby goal against Glentoran turning the youngster into an instant hero with the club’s fans.

Linfield manager David Healy has put his faith in the versatile striker, and now Smyth is determined to seize his chance.

“I really can’t believe how quickly things have progressed,” Smyth enthused.

“I was playing for the reserves and things took off from there. David watched a few games and all of a sudden I was promoted to the first team.

“He has shown great faith in the young players at the club. Obviously I got into the first team squad, and Jonny Frazer is another who has been promoted.

“It shows you that the manager is taking a keen interest in the young players at the club.”

Smyth made his senior debut as a late substitute in a County Antrim Shield win over Newington YC back in September.

His relentless energy and pace has earned many admirers in the Premiership – and instilled fear into rival defenders.

“I love it in the Premiership. Defenders have been kicking me up in the air, but I take that as a compliment,” Smyth said.

“It maybe shows that they are worried about my pace or something, and that’s how they deal with me.

“I don’t mind the physical aspect. I just get up and keep going. I actually enjoy it when defenders try and take me down.”

Smyth also admits he revels in playing in the pressure atmosphere at Linfield – where success is demanded from the Windsor Park stands.

“I don’t feel any pressure playing in front of the big crowds – that inspires me,” the teenager added.

“I just go out to play football and to get the win and three points. That’s all I want when I step over the white line.

“Last week’s win over Glentoran was just amazing, and to score a goal which helped win the game was unbelievable.

“That’s the biggest crowd I have played in front of, and it was a brilliant experience.”

Smyth will be hoping his meteoric rise continues against Crusaders at Windsor on Friday afternoon.

The champions sit eight points clear at the top of the table as they set their sights on back-to-back titles.

“Crusaders are the team to beat,” Smyth said.

“They have already beaten us at Windsor and they will be confident of repeating that.

“But we are on a good run at present. We are unbeaten in our last four league games and we have recovered from a disappointing November.

“I think the team is starting to gel together, and confidence is building. We have to carry that into Friday’s game and try and pick up a positive result. We have some momentum building and hopefully that can continue on New Year’s Day.”