“I am going to miss football massively – if circumstances were any different I am sure I would have carried on.”
That was the reaction of Adam Smith, as the popular Lowestoft Town defender announced his retirement ahead of the final match of the season this weekend. After making more than 405 appearances for Lowestoft Town over the past decade, teammates past and present have paid touching tributes to Smudge. Having signed for Lowestoft in July 2009, Smith predominantly played at left back over the years but proved equally adept in left midfield and centre midfield roles.
Renowned for a “fantastic” left foot, the former Norwich City Reserves and Peterborough United product who had two spells with Kings Lynn scored 22 goals for Lowestoft and has weighed in with many more assists over the years. In his first season at the club – the 2009/10 campaign – Smith played in 49 of Lowestoft’s 56 competitive first team games, and he never looked back.
His milestone 400th game appearance came last month during the home match against Rushall Olympic, and he marked the occasion with a memorable free kick. Manager Jamie Godbold said: “It is a phenomenal achievement. I remember his first goal for the club, and what could turn out to be his final goal a couple of weeks ago from the free kick was identical to that first goal. I think he has had a really good career and his quality will be sorely missed.”
With Smith’s final game against Bedworth United at the Amber Dew Events Stadium on Saturday (April 27), it is hoped that a big crowd will turn out to cheer Smudge and the players on. Having taken the decision to retire due to family reasons, it will be a special “occasion” this weekend as Smudge is set to lead the side out with his daughter mascot for the day.
And provided he plays, he will move up into the top dozen on the list of club appearance makers - just moving ahead of Lowestoft assistant manager Andy Reynolds. Smith, 33, said: “I do enjoy my football and I still feel like I have something to offer as I really enjoy playing, training and being round the lads. But I have to put my family first. Family is the most important thing in my life. I signed a two year deal at start of season, but the situation with my daughter and her additional needs it is tough for my wife with me being away from home the majority of time.”
The strains of leaving his home near Norwich at 7am on Saturday matchdays and getting home late, to not getting home until after 10.30pm on training nights, Smith admitted that “being in this league” and travelling many miles for away matches had meant it was important to think about his family as well. “I am going to miss football massively, if circumstances were any different I am sure I would have carried on,” Smith said. “I had a couple of offers and opportunities to move away (over the years), but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. We have had some great successes over the years, with some really good players and characters in the dressing room and the fans have been brilliant. I certainly believe the club is going in the right direction and there is a positive future for the club.”
Admitting he had a number of highlights over the years, including promotions and trophy successes, three consecutive Ryman League, Premier Division play-off final defeats to Tonbridge, Hornchurch and Concord “really hurt” as did relegation in the 2015-2016 season on the final day of the campaign on goal difference. “That was as low as I had felt in football,” Smith said.
Influential in the dressing room, Smith played a key role in the return of Jamie Godbold and Andy Reynolds for this campaign. “For me there was only one person to take the club forward,” Smith revealed. “Jamie and Andy are two people you respect and they have done a great job. It is a massive achievement to be where we are now from having two players signed on in pre season. Signing Jake Reed has made a massive difference. Him coming back lifted everyone another five to 10 per cent and for me Jake Reed is the best player
I’ve played with. I know where he wants the ball and I have had a real understanding with him.”
Speaking ahead of the weekend, Smith said: “It was certainly a hard decision that I have made and Saturday will be an emotional day. My family are coming and the chairman has invited my daughter to be mascot.”
Andy Reynolds said: “Smudge is a big voice in the dressing room. To have 10 years and more than 400 games here the quality he provides with that left foot has been there for everyone to see. It is more than that which we will miss – not only a great left foot, but his important roles on the pitch and his voice in the dressing room as when he talks people listen.”
Jamie Godbold added: “Saturday will be an emotional occasion as you are taking a big person out of the dressing room. He spoke to me about retiring at end of season, but he said ‘I want to get us safe’ - that says it all about Smudge.”
Updated 14:29 - 23 Apr 2019 by Sean Galea-Pace