The lowdown on St Mirren transfer target Oisin Smyth from Oxford United expert

Smyth – who featured 16 times for Oxford this season – began his career as a midfielder but played in central defence and right-back on occasion last term.

Now, it’s understood the versatile player is preparing to make the switch to St Mirren with sources suggesting there is substance to the reports that emerged from Northern Ireland last week.

St Mirren would offer a platform for Smyth to impress with the club in European competition next season and could see the former Northern Ireland youth internationalist link up with Stephen Robinson and current Northern Ireland assistant coach Diarmuid O’Carroll.

Robinson has made use of his vast knowledge of the Northern Irish scene at St Mirren previously with Conor McMenamin and Caolan Boyd-Munce recent examples of players excelling in Paisley and becoming regular squad players for the national team.

Smyth could become the latest Northern Irishman in the black-and-white ranks but there have been questions over where he would fit into the squad in Scotland.

Fortunately, Oxford Mail reporter Liam Rice is on hand to give an exclusive insight into Smyth to the Buddies Briefing.

“It’s tough to say where his best position is, as he’s never truly had a run of games in one area of the pitch,” admitted Rice of Smyth’s best role.

“He arrived as a central midfielder, and then when he broke into the team under Liam Manning at the back end of last season, he played as a No 10, primarily to provide a bit of muscle and physicality further forward.

“This season, he’s ticked off midfield, the right-sided centre half in a back three, and right back.

“It’s probably in the defensive and central third where he’s better suited, and a holding midfield role where he can play a little bit box-to-box is probably where he’ll fit best in his career.”

Asked where Smyth might feature in Robinson’s favoured 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation, Oxford United expert Rice added: “Smyth could play on the right of the back three, but is more likely to play in midfield, I’d imagine.

“He could operate as the most defensive option, or as a box-to-box player. Having two midfielders alongside him will probably aid in his development too.”

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On Smyth’s capabilities as a player, Rice explained: “He’s decent on the ball, and has a good enough passing range. He’s confident enough to try longer balls from deep, has a great engine, and gives his all. He’s strong and determined too, which helps when he plays further back.

“Further forward, his one goal came in spectacular style, with a cracking late strike from distance to win 2-1 at Charlton Athletic. He played that game on the right of a back three, and showed exactly what he’s got in the locker.

“While he’s solid at most things, he doesn’t really have anything which he seems to excel at, although lack of game time has certainly halted some of those attributes shining through.

“He found himself in a tough position with star man Cameron Brannagan, plus the likes of Josh McEachran, Marcus McGuane and Ruben Rodrigues all in front of him in the queue for a central midfield spot.

“He never once looked out of his depth, or that he was struggling. It’s an altogether different equation though when it comes to playing in the Championship next season.

“The U’s will need players ready from the word go, and without that League One football under his belt, there may be questions about adapting to the Championship.”

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It remains unclear whether Smyth’s switch to St Mirren would be a permanent or loan deal with the player highly rated by Oxford staff.

There would likely be a preference for a loan from Oxford, however, it’s thought Robinson would ultimately prefer the player on a full-time basis.

The benefit of Robinson and O’Carroll’s deep links with the Northern Ireland international set-up would also come as a major attraction for Smyth who is keen to make the step up from youth level.

Rice said: “After joining United on deadline day in January 2022, it’s been a difficult couple of years for him. He’s never had a proper sustained run in the team, but I know that behind the scenes, he is highly rated by the club’s coaching staff, including head coach Des Buckingham.

“You’d imagine promotion to the Championship limits his opportunities further, and a fresh start is what’s needed. A loan move would be preferable, but if the price is right, then a permanent move might be better for him on the long-term.

“Smyth won caps for Northern Ireland Under-21s, and getting into the senior set-up was always something he had on his mind.

“Regular club football comes first though, and St Mirren will hopefully provide that if the move goes ahead.”

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