Shrewsbury Town defender Dom Smith’s rapid development in League One has been put down to last season’s loan spell at non-league Tamworth.
The Wales Under-21 international, 20, has been handed a new two-year deal this week, as a reward for becoming a first-team regular under Micky Mellon.
And the Town manager praised the National League North side for the part they played in toughening him up.
“Before we sent him on loan he was a bit stand-offish,” said Mellon.
“We said ‘If you don’t start knocking the first team around, you’ll be out of here’. You fight or you go. He came back and, in his first training session, he started to knock the first team around.
“They started to get annoyed so I watched him and thought ‘If you go under now, I won’t forget that’ – and he didn’t. It didn’t bother Dom, he still does it now.
He added: “That tells you lots about his character because you wonder about their chances playing against men in front of a crowd.
“But he certainly started knocking people about and we thought ‘we’ve got a boy with the right character here’. There’s a long way to go, but certainly the signs are very encouraging.”
Smith has made 18 appearances, 14 of them starts, in what has mostly been a season of struggle for Shrewsbury in League One.
But Mellon warned that, like his improving side, who have now gone unbeaten in six league games following Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Coventry City, the young centre-half must keep getting better.
“Dom’s well aware he has to keep improving,” he told BBC Radio Shropshire, “If he doesn’t, we’ll bring someone in. He’s not ‘wee Dom’ any more. He’s going to be judged as one of the lads and, if he plays poorly, people will be all over him.”