Sam Smith has just completed his seventh season of first team football at Borough Park and, like the previous six, he’s been a model of consistency.
Indeed, had it not been for a series of frustrating injuries in recent campaigns, Sam would have passed the 200 appearance mark well before now. That’s something on hold for the time being but a career which developed at Gretna, Whitehaven and Penrith has really blossomed at Borough Park. He can reflect on over a hundred appearances for Reds Reserves and has been named on the team sheet 250 (181 starts) times for the seniors.
In the wake of COVID-19, we asked Sam what life has been like since our season ended nearly three weeks ago.
“Not too bad so far, Geoff (dad) and Judith (mum) are doing a good job keeping me and I’m well fed but not sure they’re helping with my sanity.
“I’m working from home for the foreseeable future but keep in regular contact with the lads as we do our ‘team-bonding’ bit.
“Goose has often told me about his chess prowess so I bought a board the other day and intend to dethrone him when life returns to normal!
The left sided defender (or occasional holding midfield player) has been out running most days and, somehow, has retained his fitness levels to date.
“I’ve been pushing myself on the runs and hope to do a half marathon in the near future.”
Looking back on the season Sam feels his best performance was in the home game against Marske United.
“We knew they were going to be a decent outfit when they came to our place in January and I thought I had a solid game with Goose, managing to keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win.”
He also singled out Conor Tinnion’s contribution at Tadcaster Albion as the best individual performance of the season.
“It was a funny game because of the uncertainty and no one knew what was going on with the League and probably was one reason we weren’t at our best. Tinners certainly carried us that day and did more than most and got us the win.”
He thought the 6-0 win at Kendal was the best team performance and the best away day, with the huge away support contributing to the great atmosphere.
“Even Chas (Charlie Bowman), Ivo (Luke Ivison) and young Aidan (Howarth) were singing with the Reds supporters.”
The afternoon in a very wet South Cumbria contrasted with the match at Ramsbottom United, one of our main rivals for the title.
“At the time, there was quite a bit riding on the game with Rammy on our tails and it was disappointing that we never showed up and surrendered top spot in the process,” was Smith’s honest assessment.
“But the whole season has been so enjoyable and being able to bounce back from the disappointment of twelve months ago makes me proud being part of the team. And seeing the fans travelling in numbers every week has been a highlight. They’ve been a massive part of our near success this season and, after the relegation, could’ve given up on us but have pulled us through on some tough away days. They deserved to be top of the league as well as us.
“To be honest, I think we are a better team than everyone else we came up against, not necessarily on the day because we have had a few off days, but I believe we were the best team in the league. We even ran Farsley Celtic close in the Trophy, and they were going well in National North at the time, and should have got something out of the game. That said, and even though we defended well, their striker, Jimmy Spencer, is one of the better players we have faced this season.
“The ‘dressing room’ has been superb because everyone plays a part in their own way. You have the likes of Dav who keeps everyone entertained then there is Brad Hubbold who has started giving him a bit back which is good to see.”
The players had a trip to Benidorm booked for May, the end-of-season-do which the lads were hoping would have doubled as a championship party. Not happening now, though, unfortunately, but the players do mix well together away from the serious stuff.
Sam has certainly played his part in a memorable, albeit unfinished, campaign but did he take part in the intricate skills of juggling a toilet roll like Messrs Grainger and Symington? “No way, they’re like gold dust – can’t be damaging them with a few kick-ups!”