ESL One Cologne, 2018, and the crowd noise is intense. A German team has made the final, led by legendary 1.6 pro gob b, and the home fans are going crazy for the potential of a top CSGO team from that part of the world. As the anticipation builds, and the music swells, a single, baleful line can be heard, rising above the rest of the cacophony, like a baying cow charging into battle, two syllables, again and again. SMOOOO-YAAAH, SMOOOO-YAAAH!!!
Fast forward to April 2019, and things are not the same anymore. Owen Butterfield is learning to live on his own after moving out of his parents’ house, and dividing his time between the stream and the gym, with a side of social media.
A much-anticipated move to the US-of-A, where many have gone to chase their dream, has not worked out just yet as the likes of compLexity and NRG went with other options, leaving the man they once called Smooya to his own devices. He is currently standing in for Renegades in place of Gratisfaction but why, after so much impact last year, is the Brit not able to find a permanent team?
According to reports, the decision to leave BIG Clan was taken by Smooya himself, for some relatively noble reasons. In a Twitlonger, posted below, he talks about the team needing change to achieve their potential, and how some of the issues holding them back have revolved around him, but behind the scenes there were rumours it was a tad more mutual than all of that, with gob b also looking forward to putting a bit of space between himself and the Smoo.
He said, he said
Without speaking to the parties involved it is impossible to know what percentage of the blame lies with either person, but it’s fair to say the players in the scene would have been privy to more of that than the average fan. If there was significant tension in BIG, then within the scene that would have spread, and just as with ScreaM and KioShiMa led to the player developing a difficult reputation despite seeming like a good signing from the outside.
That could certainly be part of the problem, and there is also the fact that you need to be likeable generally to be a team player, but there is another reason Smooya might be struggling to get a new team, and that is his playstyle. As an AWP player, you’d think the young Brit would be in good demand, given how many top teams have repurposed stars into snipers of late, but the way he wields the big green is going out of fashion, as we can see elsewhere.
When Ninjas in Pyjamas dropped Dennis and replaced him with Draken, the general reaction was positive despite the latter player being thought of as a bit flaky, and the reverse was true when NiP brought back Dennis at Draken’s expense. Fans were baffled as to why the older man, who had been whiffing shots throughout the Major and build-up to that event was being preferred to the young, sharp guy, who had looked extremely dangerous at times during his brief stint as a Ninja.
Draken, like Smooya, has one problem, though, and that is consistency, hence the ‘Draken window’ meme. For those who don’t know, the meme essentially goes that Draken will miss most shots in the 30 or so degrees in front of him, while consistently hitting far harder flicks that require wrist-breaking flicks. Smooya is in a similar boat as a player with the capacity for game changing play-making, but also the ability to go missing at a moment’s notice.
In the Brit’s favour, he has generally tended to play up to his opponents level when facing ‘better’ AWPers, and shown a degree of mettle that not all players of his generation possess, but the twin factors of being tough to play with and slightly unreliable make for a difficult sell in the current climate. CS teams abound at present, but top ones are rare, and if he wants a 'good' offer that will limit his options still further.
With the power of the AUG, the AWP is a greater investment than ever before, and as a result of that and some other, more significant factors Smooya is in the unenviable position of being benched by at best a tier-two team. Sadly, this means the best player the UK has produced for some time is learning how to wash his own socks while his peers travel the globe, making history, and we hope that can change soon.