Smith handed second League chance by Oxford
Jonté Smith said it is a “dream and a privilege” to be back among the English Football League ranks after completing a transfer deadline day move to Sky Bet League One side Oxford United from non-League Lewes.
The 24-year-old Bermuda forward left Lewes for an undisclosed fee to join Oxford on a contract that expires at the end of the season.
The deal, the terms of which were also undisclosed, was completed yesterday morning.
“It’s a dream and a privilege and I’ve been working hard to get back to this level of football,” said Smith, who had a previous stint with League Two side Crawley Town.
“I’m not going to waste this opportunity.
“The chance to join Oxford was such a great one for me and now it is up to me to keep scoring goals, work hard, and do the best I can to make it a success.
“There are some very talented players and staff here, I’ll be looking to learn everything I can and work hard with all the coaches to become a better player.
“My short-term goal is to use the facilities and the incredible coaches that I have to take my game to the next level; everything else will follow.
“My long-term goal would be to prove myself at this level and continue to do so for as long as possible.”
Smith trained with Oxford’s first team on Thursday before the club made an initial bid, which was turned down by his Lewes.
“It has been a lot of hard work and it will only get harder,” he added. “It’s been quite an emotional week. “I’m glad that we’ve been able to get the deal across the line, that’s the most important thing.”
Smith netted twice for Oxford in a friendly away to Reading on Tuesday that was played behind closed doors, having attracted Oxford’s attention when he netted a hat-trick against them in a friendly while on trial for Swindon Town, of League Two.
“He is very raw but he is a goalscorer and we think he deserves longer to try and impress us,” said Karl Robinson, the Oxford head coach, whose struggling side are one spot outside the relegation places on goal difference. “Jerome Sinclair signed yesterday [on loan from Premier League side Watford], so we have added to our options up front.
“This one may be seen as a bit left-field, but Jonté has a fantastic attitude and you can’t do much more as a trialist than score five in two games! Chris Allen [the first-team coach] was certainly impressed, so now it is up to him to make the most of this chance.”
Smith joined Lewes in 2016 on a three-year deal and went on to score 56 goals in 121 games in the Isthmian League.
He was instrumental in promotion for Lewes to the Bostik Premier League and his 12 goals this campaign have helped to put the club in promotion contention again.
“When I first signed Jonté, the ultimate plan was to get him back playing League football,” Darren Freeman, the Lewes manager, said. “Jonté has put himself in the shop window with his performances over the past couple of years and he deserves his chance.
“Jonté’s been a fantastic role model for the club. I’m sure all the players and fans — hope to see him doing really well for Oxford. With a lot of hard work, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Smith said his former team will always “have a place” in his heart.
“I want to thank Lewes for all they have done for me and wish them well,” Smith said.
“The Lewes fans will always have a place in my heart. They’ve supported me through everything and I can’t thank them enough for it.”
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