It has been a remarkable year for former Supersport United striker Darren Smith in Finland.
The attacker has grown from strength to strength since leaving South Africa to join Ykkonen side Ekenas IF in the second division. The striker’s hard work has recently been awarded as he recently won the league’s top goal scorer, Player of the Season and striker of the season accolades.
FARPost analyses the striker’s season in numbers as the curtain has been finally closed on the 2020 season.
In 27 games in all competitions, Smith scored 21 goals across all competitions. Modern day strikers are expected to also help the team by creating goals for their teammates and Smith assisted four more league goals which meant that he finished the season with a direct goal contribution of 25 goals in the league.
The 24-year-old has had a difficult past two seasons after struggling to cement a permanent place at SuperSport United since making his debut in 2017 under coach Eric Tinkler. A loan spell to Ubuntu Cape Town in the second division was followed by a permanent exit at the club in 2019.
Driven by the hunger to turn his career around the Cape Town-born striker moved abroad to join Ekenas where he made an immediate impact scoring goals every weekend and becoming one of the club’s reliable players. Smith featured in all 22 league games for the club and helped them to a 4th place finish in the 12 team league format.
As the hottest property in the division a lot of clubs from the top-flight showed interest in the South African, but FC Honka snapped him up immediately to bolster their already impressive squad that guided the club to a 4th place finish in the 2020 season. Another advantage for Smith is that he will be playing in the UEFA Europa League with his new club having qualified for the continental competition for a second season running.
They were knocked out in the qualifying round of the 2020/21 Europa League campaign and with their new project of bringing in quality players from all around the world qualifying for the continental competition next season should not be difficult.
Smith is part of a generation of South African players making strides in Europe with the likes of Lebo Mothiba, Lebogang Phiri, Bongani Zungu and a few more senior players having paved the way for the younger players who have been abroad in large numbers in recent years.
Ayabulela Konqobe also played a big role for Ekenas playing as a creative midfielder and scored 6 goals and assisted a further 6 strikes in 22 league games last season. It is expected that the 24-year-old will also make a move up to the top-flight in the upcoming transfer window.
Both South Africans made considerable progress in their first season in Europe.
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By Prince Sobayeni