By the time Mark Smith came back for a second spell with us in 2003, he’d already earned a place in the pantheon of Boro’ all-time greats. For a start, there aren’t many others who can say they played for us hundreds of times. Literally. Hundreds. It seemed for so long as if he’d never be overtaken in our appearance charts. In his time with us, he took to the pitch 468 times (including seven as sub). Then along came Ronnie Henry and, well, what can you do.
His second spell was fine – but it was always going to struggle to stack up against his first. A signing from up the road at Hitchin Town, Smudger’s debut for us set a big tone; four goals against Bognor Regis Town. It helps that Cloughie stuck him up top that day, as he came to us as a forward. He soon found his way to the back and we made our way up the pyramid. The two are linked, by the way. First, there was the 1993-4 Diadora League Premier Division title. Next, came the 1995-6 GM Vauxhall Conference crown.
Had Alan Shearer in his back pocket too.
The fact he never played in the Football League is amazing. But we all know that story too well to repeat again. And just as surprising is when we let him leave; joining Dagenham & Redbridge in 2001. Still, he came back under the tenure of Graham Westley as additional experience was sought to shore up the Boro’ defence. And that’s all we could ask for. The bottom line is that Smudger was back home in our red and white. It’s just a shame that we couldn’t achieve any further success before he left us for good.
Mark Smith: After Boro’
In his later years, Smith moved back up the road to Hitchin to try his hand at managing. Whether he could still replicate the agility of his acrobatic clearance against Newcastle United is a cheeky wager that probably remains to be seen. We’re also not sure if he’s still playing. We wouldn’t put it past him, such is the defender’s enduring fitness…