Mackail-Smith: Injury prevented me doing myself justice at Luton
Outgoing Luton Town striker Craig Mackail-Smith didn't feel he ever quite did himself justice during his stint at Kenilworth Road.
The ex-Brighton and Peterborough forward was hailed as a major signing for the club in the summer of 2015 when brought in by former boss John Still.
However, the Scottish international managed just five goals in 40 appearances throughout his stay, which was hit by a broken leg at Plymouth Argyle that kept him out of action for eight months.
He eventually finished the season on loan at former club Posh once more and speaking exclusively to the News/Gazette, Mackail-Smith admitted his exit had come as no surprise.
He said: “We’d (Mackail-Smith and manager Nathan Jones) had some chats, towards the end when I went on loan and we understood it hadn’t gone the way we’d both been hoping.
“The injury didn’t really help and at the time the boys were flying and it made it difficult for me to get into the team.
“So it was understandable and something I knew that was coming, it’s just the way football is.
“I don’t think I’ve done myself justice, the injury didn’t help, it didn’t allow me to show my best, but that’s the way it goes.”
When the injury came at Home Park, Mackail-Smith had netted four goals in 34 games and felt like he was just getting into his stride.
He continued: “I think the first season was helping me get fit and strong again and the injury came at not the greatest of times because I felt like I was just getting fitter and stronger.
“I had the injury and we left it to heal but it didn’t quite go that way from there.
“So then we had it pinned and a three month injury turned into an eight month injury.
“Then the boys were doing really well and for me I needed to play football and get out, I couldn’t sit around and wait to see what happens.
“It’s been frustrating as I’ve not been able to show what I can do. I went to Peterborough and scored goals, started to find my form again and it’s just a shame I couldn’t have done it at Luton.”
When Mackail-Smith was back, he was restricted to just two starts in the Checkatrade Trophy and a handful of substitute appearances for the Hatters.
He knew for the good of his career he had to be out and playing though, saying: “It was just a consistent run of games.
“I needed four, five, six games in a row, just for my body to adjust again and get strong and a game here and a game there wasn’t doing anything for me.
“So it was a little bit disappointing, but he (Jones) has got great striking options with Danny (Hylton) and Jack (Marriott) and Isaac (Vassell) is coming through.
“It was a tough decision and obviously he’s got to go with the boys in form and whether he could have given me five or six games to wait to see if I got fit, it’s a difficult decision to and I completely understand that.”
On whether he felt he could have been utilised more, Mackail-Smith said: “Maybe, but again, it’s a difficult thing as had to give me four or five games and then he’s got to judge if that’s going to work or not going to work.
“I think if people weren’t scoring and the team’s faltering a little bit then it’s an easy decision to make, but because Danny, Jack and Isaac were doing well and scoring goals, it’s not a decision you can just do.
“It could have gone either way, I personally think it would have been fine as I showed when I went to Peterborough, but again, it is a difficult decision to make.”
Once on loan at London Road, Mackail-Smith netted five goals in 18 games, although he wasn’t surprised by his return, saying: “I knew I had it, I knew it was still there and I’ve got the capability of playing at that level and higher.
“All I needed was games. I knew my body was ready, just wasn’t match fit and once that happens and you get your sharpness back and start getting your eye for goal, the goals started going in.
“I probably could have had three or four more if I was truly honest with myself and brutal on myself. But to finish on five goals when starting 13 or 14 games, considering I hadn’t played for over a year and hadn’t had a pre-season, I’m over the moon with.”
On what the future holds for the striker now, he said: “I’m just enjoying a bit of a break, it’s a shame as the summer’s probably come a bit quick for me as I was just getting into my stride at Peterborough.
“I’d played 15 games and then the season ends, so I would have rather it had carried on going. But I’m just having a couple of weeks off to relax, then I’ll start doing my own training and then wait to here from clubs.
“I’m quietly confident something will happen, I’m nicely relaxed and have nothing to think about other than enjoying time with the kids and that’s it at the moment.”
If a return to his former side Peterborough was on the cards once more, Mackail-Smith added: “I think that’s a discussion for later, everyone’s gone away now, so once everyone comes back in a few weeks time, then people will start talking and we’ll see where that leads to.
“I’m looking forward to having a good summer, getting fit and strong, having a good pre-season wherever I am and just carrying on playing on football.”