Smith thrilled by England call
Matty Smith thought he was in trouble when he saw a missed call from Steve McNamara, never daring to dream it was news of an England call-up.
The Salford scrum-half had caught the eye playing for England Knights in their big win over Ireland in a curtain-raiser to the first Origin international but never expected to earn promotion for the return game.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," Smith said.
"I missed Steve's call on Tuesday and, when I saw his number, I thought 'what have I done wrong now?'
"I thought it was maybe something I'd done in camp.
"It's obviously fantastic and I'm made up. Hopefully, I'll get picked in the game and I can do the country proud."
Smith's prospects of playing for England at Huddersfield on Wednesday night improved when St Helens half-back Jonny Lomax was ruled out with a rib injury sustained in his side's 34-28 win over Hull KR on Friday.
McNamara has called up Hull KR hooker Josh Hodgson as a replacement but Smith is expected to form a new England half-back pairing with Huddersfield's Danny Brough when the coach names his line-up tomorrow.
They will take over from Kevin Sinfield, who is rested, and Rangi Chase, who has been suspended by Castleford for an alleged breach of club discipline as McNamara looks ahead to the 2013 World Cup.
Smith's selection will cap a meteoric rise to fame.
He had high hopes of making it big with home-town club St Helens but found his hopes of a regular spot in the team blocked initially by Sean Long and then Kyle Eastmond.
He had loan spells at Widnes, Celtic Crusaders and Salford before eventually making a permanent move to the Reds last year.
This year he was joined at the City of Salford Stadium by Long, who was placed in charge of the team's attack by head coach Phil Veivers and helped spark a marked improvement in fortunes.
In harness with Australian stand-off Daniel Holdsworth, Smith has found the best form of his career and reckons the best is yet to come.
"Phil and Longy have been fantastic with me this year," he said. "They've given me the free rein to go out and play the way I want to play.
"It's been fantastic and it's worked this year. I think it probably is the best I've played but I still think there is a lot of improvement in me as well."
Smith might have dreamed of playing for England when he was a budding footballer with Everton's academy but he never had any regrets over his decision to switch sports.
"When I was playing football, that was great," he said. "I made my mind up to play rugby when I was 16 so I got into rugby league late and to get where I am now is fantastic.
"It's something that I'm really proud of. To represent your country, you can't get any higher than that."
Smith's impressive form for Salford is set to bring him other rewards in the form of a big-money move to Wigan.
The Reds tried desperately to keep hold of their talismanic half-back, who is out of contract at the end of the year, and Widnes also came in with an offer.
Smith was even offered the chance to return to St Helens under new coach Nathan Brown but is widely expected to join Wigan as a replacement for the departing Thomas Leuluai.
"I've yet to sign the contract," he said. "My mind is pretty much made up but, until I get the nod from whichever club it is that I'm signing for to release it, I can't really say much.
"I'm in a great position and I couldn't have said that a few months ago. There was no interest at all. Obviously Salford came in and offered me a contract and it went from there.
"All of a sudden, there's loads of clubs chasing you and it's obviously nice as a player to be recognised for how well you're doing."