Smith: “When I first joined Quins I had big dreams and big aspirations – and I still do now" (Image: Getty)

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Marcus Smith has come a long way in nine years since Harlequins were last crowned English champions.

A fan that day at Twickenham he is now playmaker for a club preparing for its first play-off game since 2014.

Like many 13-year-olds he dreamt of one day playing a starring role for the club he supports.

At Bristol tomorrow that becomes a reality when he calls the shots in the first semi-final against the top-seeded Bears.

“When I first joined Quins I had big dreams and big aspirations – and I still do now,” Smith said.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play for this club in a Premiership final, I am desperate to do that. If I’m honest I also dream of playing for England.”

Smith’s journey, which is likely to bring international honours next month, began in 2012 when he was in the stands watching Danny Care, his now half-back partner, help Quins win the Premiership.

Smith: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play for this club in a Premiership final, I am desperate to do that"
(Image: Getty)

Six seasons later, without having played a senior game and only weeks out of school, he was called up by Eddie Jones whilst awaiting his A level results.

His meteoric rise owes much to Nick Buoy, his rugby coach at Brighton College, who turned him from mischievous youngster into a leader of men.

“I was a bit cheeky when I was younger, a bit too cheeky,” Smith admitted. “I got told off.

Smith breaks during Harlequins match against Sale
(Image: Getty Images)

"But as I grew older Nick made me take on responsibilities: front the warm-ups, organise the team through the school day, announce the team line-up.

“He also always told me to play what is in front of me and do it while smiling.”

That message was reinforced by Quins before Smith’s debut through then director of rugby John Kingston.

Smith scores Quins' last-gasp winner against Wasps last month
(Image: Getty Images for Harlequins)

“I remember to this day being told I would be starting in the London Doubleheader,” he said. “John said, ‘Mate, back yourself, play with a smile on your face’.

“That’s what I’ve tried to live by to this day and, if I’m being honest with myself, I went away from that for a while.

“But this year I’ve found my smile again. I’m genuinely excited with how we’re playing.

“Bristol are a brilliant team with threats all over the field. But Danny and the senior boys always say if we produce our best moments on the pitch not many teams will be able to handle us.”