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Unsung Hero: Kenny Smith, Eastcombe Football Club

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 21st December 2017, 09:00, Tags: Unsung Hero

“We’re just a club run by a group of mates.”

Those are the words of the man they call ‘Mr Eastcombe’ – better known as Kenny Smith – who was talking to The Local Answer about his beloved Eastcombe Football Club.

Smith is player/manager of the first team, who play in Stroud League Division Two, as well as the club’s secretary. And if that wasn’t enough he took on the job of results secretary for the Stroud Football League at the start of the season.

Of his newest role, he said: “I’m in my late 30s and I’m the youngest person on the Stroud League committee. I was asked to do it and I said ‘yes’. If the league don’t get people like me coming through and helping there won’t be any league for people to play in.”

No-one would ever accuse Smith of not pulling his weight although his involvement with Eastcombe, who run a second team in Division Six of the Stroud League, came about quite by chance.

“I was 21 and my dad’s friend Billy Davies asked me if I’d like to come and run the reserve team,” the 37-year-old explained. “Billy was heavily involved with the club – I think he was chairman at the time. I’d played for Chalford but I’d had a knee injury and hadn’t played football for a couple of years.

“I was only 21 and it was very young to run a football team, but if I hadn’t done it the reserve team would have folded. I got 10 of my mates along and it went from there. Eastcombe will always be my passion.”

Not that Smith, a centre-back, was to stay with the reserves for long.

“It wasn’t long before they wanted me to play in the first team,” he chuckled.

And of course it wasn’t just as a player they wanted him… they wanted him to manage the team as well.

“I’ve been manager ever since,” he laughed. “When I first joined the club we were playing in the Cirencester League. We moved across to Division Four of the Stroud League so we’ve had a couple of promotions over the years.”

They’re not short of players either.

“We’ve got 36-38 signed on and we enjoy the social side as much as the playing side,” Smith said. “Obviously we want to win when we go out onto the pitch but we have a good crack between both teams.”

It helps that the reserves just happen to be run by Smith’s best mate Sean Liddicott.

“He joined the club at the same time as me and has been running the reserves for the past eight years or so,” said Smith. “Dave Wood also started at the same time as us and he’s still playing for the reserves and is also the club’s treasurer.”

Smith is also playing pretty much every week this season after sitting on the subs’ bench for much of the previous campaign.

“No, it’s not just because I’m the manager,” he laughed. “I’m back in the side and deservedly so! I dedicated myself to getting fit in the summer.”

That has served only to increase Smith’s commitments at Eastcombe of course and he admitted: “It does take up a big part of my life, we’re always talking about the football club. I do get called Mr Eastcombe but I love being involved.”

Smith, who lives in Stroud, is keen to stress that he’s no one-man act at Eastcombe.

“Our chairman Nigel Meanwell is up there every week and our goalkeeper Chris Load is our groundsman. We’ve got two pitches and it was a job I used to do before Chris took it on. He works on the course at Cirencester Golf Club and looks after our ground in return for not having to pay match fees!”

Eastcombe really are a club run by a group of mates.

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