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Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Thursday, 30 September 2010 16:42 UK

Matty Smith set for fairytale St Helens finale

Venue: Old Trafford Date: Saturday, 2 October Kick-off: 1800 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website and Sky Sports 2, highlights on BBC2 on Sunday

Matty Smith
Half-back Matty Smith has spent the league campaign on loan at Salford

Matty Smith is forgiven for thinking he had already enjoyed his highlight this season when he ran in a hat-trick for Salford against parent club St Helens.

But fate dealt him an unexpected card, injuries to Kyle Eastmond and Jonny Lomax earning him a Saints recall once his season's loan at Salford had ended.

And, having already played a starring role in helping Saints reach the Grand Final, he is not finished yet.

"It's a fairytale," Saints coach Mick Potter told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"Matty could be playing at Old Trafford. It might never happen again in his career and he's grabbing his chance with open arms."

Lomax has now reported fit for Saturday, having been named in Potter's 19-man squad on Thursday afternoon. But Eastmond is definitely out, ensuring that Smith will almost certainly start at scrum-half.

And, even on a night when Keiron Cunningham's farewell is likely to steal the show, and it is also a final game for coach Potter, the similarly Bradford-bound Bryn Hargreaves and Aussie Matt Gidley, the story of Smith's own last appearance in a Saints shirt is the stuff of legend.

It was only when Saints went into the play-offs nursing so many injuries at half-back, coupled with the end of Smith's season-long loan at The Willows, that the idea was first raised of bringing back their local lad into the fold.

Assistant coach Keiron Purtill pointed out to Potter that Smith's loan deal had run out and that he was still contracted to St Helens before joining the Reds next season on a new two-year deal.

And, fuelled by the memory of that hat-trick of tries in Salford's surprise win against Saints in May, Potter was quickly on the phone.

Despite being stung by the shock of two Matt King tries in the first six minutes at Knowsley Road, scrum-half Smith made light of Eastmond's absence as he helped Saints respond with a brilliant display, outwitting even Lee Briers with his tactical kicking, as Saints came back to beat Warrington 28-12.

Even with Eastmond back and switched to stand-off, Smith again played a key role when Saints saw off Huddersfield in the semi to book their place at Old Trafford last Friday night.

And now he admits: "Saturday night can't come quick enough.

"A month ago I would never have thought I'd come back and play again for my home-town club," he told BBC Radio Merseyside, "so to play for Saints in a Grand Final against Wigan is somewhere else.

"I've not even played in a derby game before, never mind the Grand Final, so to do both together is amazing.

"When I got that call off Mick Potter to come back into training I had to double check to make sure it was him."

Smith also admits that, despite having spent the last two seasons on loan first with Crusaders, then this term at Salford, he has slotted straight back in for his month-long St Helens swansong as if he had never left.

"Although I've been away for two-and-a-half years on loan," added Smith, "there's only two new players, Tony Puletua and Sol Soliola.

Matty Smith
Smith has spent the league campaign on loan at Salford

"The moves are pretty much the same and playing in a team like this certainly makes my job easier.

"I was made up with my performance against Warrington that night, but the forwards made it easy for me.

"And Mick's been brilliant with one-on-one coaching.

"He's shown me videos of what I need to look for, to work on my kicking game and my defence.

"I've got a lot of belief in my own ability. I practise my kicking every day. It looks a pretty big pitch and I hope there'll be plenty of gaps.

"But it's Mick who's given me the opportunity to play and I owe a lot to him."

Potter himself cannot speak highly enough about Smith's impact.

"I spoke to him earlier in the season just before he started his loan at Salford," Potter told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"I knew what qualities he had and that he'd be good for Salford. It's just a shame he had to make a career decision about his future to continue there.

"But it has turned into an opportunity for us.

"There was a month or two left on his contract following his loan commitment at Salford. He's been fantastic for us and I hope he gets the result he deserves."

To play in the last game at Knowsley Road alongside Keiron Cunningham was special. To now do it at Old Trafford would be even more special

Matty Smith

After losing in each of the previous three Grand Finals, two of which the boyhood Saints fan was there watching from the stands, even more memorably, Smith now has a chance to play a role in helping one of his heroes, the veteran Cunningham, bow out in style.

"To play in the last game at Knowsley Road alongside Keiron was special," said Smith. "To now do it at Old Trafford would be even more special.

"I've grown up watching him, as a Saints fan. He's one of my heroes. And to play alongside him on Saturday night at Old Trafford would be unbelievable.

"I'm already shaking with nerves now but it's good nerves.

"It's hard when there's 70,000 fans out there but you have to play the game, not the occasion, and just concentrate on what you do every week. And we've just got to forget about the last few finals.

"We'll be looking to turn that around for Keiron because it's his final game. But it's also my last game for the club too and, for a local Saints lad, it's great to be playing in such a big game to end my time here."

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