NEW York City young gun Chris Smith insists his career is on the rise despite missing out on a possible Royals' ascent.

The 19-year-old defender put pen to paper on a two-year deal to finally seal his switch from First Division wannabees Reading after first impressing City manager Terry Dolan during a trial spell at the end of the season.

It means Derby-born Smith will miss out on Reading's bid for promotion in tomorrow's Second Division play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

But the talented teenager, speaking to the Evening Press, insists he has no regrets.

"Not at all. I enjoyed my time at Reading and they looked after me and I do hope they go up - I'll be watching them," he said.

"But this is a step up for me in my eyes and a chance for first-team football."

And while he will not turn 20 until just a few days before City report back for pre-season, Smith, who is still wiating to make his Football League debut, insists first-team football remains a realistic target.

"Reading have such a big squad -I think they have 43 or 44 in the squad," he explained.

"Last year I was involved quite a lot as a substitute with them, but with the team doing so well and the defence doing so well the young lads aren't really getting a chance.

"But I'm definitely wanting to come back here and get a first team place straightaway, fight for it and keep my place.

"For the two years that I am here I want to be in that first-team."

Smith admitted the trial period he had with City at the end of the season when he featured in two reserve games, had helped make his mind-up to become a Minsterman.

"As soon as I got here everyone at the club made me feel welcome and treated me like I was a player.

"So I enjoyed my time here and that helped me to play well."

And Smith, who was in the same youth team at Reading as Neville Stamp, acknowledged the role his former Royals' team-mate had in persuading him to move north.

"He said it's a good club, they treat you right here and it has potential, which was good to hear.

"Neville, the manager and a few of the other players I have spoke to have all said they want to get in the play-offs at least next year.

"To see a club with ambition is important."

Smith, a former Leeds United schoolboy, added: "Reading said I would find it hard next year to get in the team, especially if they go up.

"But because I'd been there so long they said they would look after me and if I didn't find anything that was right I could have gone back there and played until I found something.

"York was the first place I came to and it just felt right.

"The lads are down to earth and they make you feel like a professional."

Updated: 11:27 Saturday, May 26, 2001