Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley believes his former striker Harry Smith has a chance to go far in the game after seeing him smash an FA Cup hat-trick for his new club Millwall.
The 6ft 6 forward hit his first senior treble in the Lions 5-2 FA Cup Second Round win over Vanarama National League club Braintree Town to take his goalscoring record to six goals in six appearances for the SkyBet League One club.
Cugley signed the striker from Sittingbourne at the start of last season, a move that he felt was simply “taking a chance” on a talented player.
That chance paid off as Smith hit thirteen goals in his nineteen appearances for the club, quickly grabbing the attention of the likes of Aberdeen, Gillingham and Millwall.
It was the latter that took the chance to sign him and Cugley can see similarities with another big striker; former England hitman Peter Crouch.
He said “Harry can go a long way, six foot six goes a long way doesn’t it?” he joked.
“It’s easy to compare him with Peter Crouch isn’t it? They are both very tall, but they are both so much more than that.
“They are good on the floor and have a decent turn of pace. They are hardworking strikers, so they have more assets than just their height really.
“Harry has a chance to go far and hopefully he can take it”
Cugley always believed that the twenty one year old would get a chance to impress with Millwall, but is surprised to see it happening so quickly.
After hitting form in the Lions U21 setup, Smith grabbed his first team chance with both hands, scoring twice in a 3-1 EFL Trophy win at Luton Town.
A first league goal came in their 4-0 hammering of Bristol Rovers in mid-November, before he hit the FA Cup headlines with his hat-trick against Braintree on Sunday.
“It’s a surprise that it has happened so quickly for him, but not that he has taken the chance because he is so determined to do well” said Cugley.
“I thought at six foot six he would get on the bench. He would always be a useful option for a manager.
“But to see him in the first team, getting his chance so quickly, yes, that it a surprise.
“You keep an eye out for him and see that he did well in the Under 21s, so I think we knew how close he was and then he scored in the Trophy game.
“I think he got one in the league too so he is doing very well. We are all delighted for him”
In attendance at the Den to witness Smith’s heroics was Invicta chairman Paul Morgan.
As well as his role with Invicta, Morgan is also a season ticket holder, a fact that meant he was “delighted” with Smith’s move to the Den according to Cugley.
And the Invicta boss revealed the “pride and satisfaction” that everyone at the club feels seeing one of their former players doing so well.
“Our chairman was there at Millwall for the game because he has a season ticket with the club.
“I think he would have went anyway and he likes to keep in touch with things that were going on at Millwall anyway.
“It has snowballed for Harry, but hopefully this is just the start.
“There is a lot of pride and satisfaction at the club for the way Harry has progressed.
“We took a gamble, we knew it was a gamble but we knew it was one worth taking because he just had something.
“As soon as we worked with him clubs took notice of what he could offer”