Cammy Smith is living life in the fast lane after moving to the home of the iconic Indy 500.
“The famous speedway stadium is actually where you get your COVID vaccine over here,” says the former Dundee United midfielder. “You drive onto the track, roll down the window and they lean in, jab you and you drive off!”
Smith may not have hit the heady speeds of 2021 winner Helio Castroneves, who triumphed in front of 135,000 fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, but petrol-heads around the world will still be envious.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 30, 2021
Smith, however, is more concerned with the turf than the tarmac after joining USL Championship outfit Indy Eleven, immediately cementing himself as a first-team regular following his arrival in April.
“If things had worked out differently at Dundee United then maybe I wouldn’t be here,” said the 25-year-old. “But with my deal running out, I thought it was a good time to try something different.
“My mindset isn’t ‘oh, I’m here for a couple of months — a bit of a holiday’. I’m here to work hard, do well and score goals, and maybe that opens up doors on this side of the world.
“If it does, fantastic. If not, then I’m confident I will have options in Scotland and I believe I would be coming back a better player.”
‘Johnny Russell and Lewis Morgan inspiration’
Smith does not need to look far for inspiration. He spoke to former teammates Sam Stanton and Lewis Morgan prior to his decision, while Johnny Russell, Danny Wilson and Stuart Findlay make up a growing Scottish contingent in MLS.
Speaking from his apartment in Carmel, Indianapolis — “kind of like a bigger Broughty Ferry” — he told Courier Sport: “The manager’s message was: there is a pathway to bigger things if you show up well and are at a good age.
“He mentioned that, in the prior transfer window, three players went from Indy Eleven to MLS. One to Houston Dynamo, one to Inter Miami and one to Vancouver Whitecaps.
“I spoke to Sam Stanton, who had a tough time out here and only stayed for one season. He caught COVID, was forced to isolate and was over in the U.S. on his own.
“However, he told me the standard was good — he was at Phoenix Rising, one of the top teams in this league.
“Lewis [Morgan] is obviously at a different level, financially and in terms of the standard. Stuart Findlay is out here, so is Johnny Russell and there’s a whole host of English lads. It is growing all the time.”
Smith’s reference to ‘the manager’ is now out of date. Scottish coach Martin Rennie, who signed him, left the club by mutual consent on Wednesday, with Indy Eleven sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
There will, however, be continued camaraderie and familiarity in the form of ex-Rangers and Motherwell man Nicky Law, who is among Smith’s teammates.
Speaking prior to Rennie’s exit, he continued: “Nicky has been a huge help. He was here about three weeks before me and really helped me settle; daft things like getting the WiFi sorted, getting moved into my apartment and all that.
“Because we are two British guys who both played in Scotland for a long time, that was an immediate connection and we always go for dinner. His apartment is just across the hallway — so he’s not far.”
‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing’
While his focus is firmly on the future, Smith’s reflections on two spells with Dundee United are candid.
He shone on loan at Tannadice from Aberdeen during the first half of the 2016/17 campaign, scoring five goals in 23 appearances in the Championship. He spent the second half of that season at St Mirren.
Having joined the Buddies on a permanent deal, Smith then made the move back to United for a second time in January 2019, penning a two-year contract.
Despite Robbie Neilson’s efforts to bring him to the club, it was not to be a happy relationship, with Smith claiming he gave short shrift to those players not in his immediate plans.
“With my second stint at United, maybe hindsight is a wonderful thing,” recalls Smith. “I was appreciated at St Mirren, but Dundee United came in with a good offer and they were a club on the up.
“I actually had a really good [2019/20] pre-season but didn’t get much of a run. Robbie just didn’t take to me. From that point onwards, I had no chance really. He’s a bit like that: he just freezes players out.
“He didn’t only do that to me. There were a few boys. I was at least still training with the team and getting on here and there. A lot of the other boys didn’t even get to train with the team.
“I never threw in the towel. Every day in training, and in every game I played, I gave my absolute all. I worked so hard to try and get in that United team but under Robbie, it was never going to be good enough.”
He added pointedly: “That’s only made me more determined to have a good career. I’m only 25 and easily have 10 years at a good level. Let’s see where this move takes me — whether it is in the U.S. or back in Scotland.”