Isn’t it rewarding when a young prospect emerges from the youth side and into the first team? Jack Smith did just that for us; bursting onto the Boro’ scene as far back as November 2018 when name-checked in a Comet interview as one to watch. His first team path then started after gaining a place on the bench for our 2019-20 season opener. Mind you, his opportunity was a little quicker in coming around than he may have first thought. And an injury crisis at the start of that campaign was his chance.
The 2020-1 season would then become a milestone in the young midfielder’s career; turning out 30 times in all competitions. And the impression he made during his match time was impressive. It was enough to secure him that season’s Young Player of the Year accolade; edging out Chelsea goalkeeper Jamie Cumming by two votes. Not only that, but it also secured him a well-deserved, two-year extension to his contract at the Lamex. All in all, it was a good haul for the lad. And it vindicated that belief shown in him by four managers we’d gone through during the 2019-20 season.
Jack Smith: After Boro’
The upheaval that Boro’ went through in the time between 2019 and 2022 didn’t do much good for Smith. As incoming managers looked to more experienced options in the middle, the young midfielder found himself on the fringes; out on loan to gain match experience. In early 2020, there was a brief loan spell at Braintree Town that yielded nine appearances before the National League season was cut short due to Covid-19. He’d get an opportunity to shine at both Kettering Town (2021-2) and Dartford (2022-3) too.
In his absence, however, Boro’ secured promotion to League One. And, with his contract up, the question was whether there was a path back to first team action with us. The answer, it seems, was “no”; Smith released at the end of his deal. Our loss would end up being King’s Lynn Town’s gain that summer; the midfielder down to National League North and a Linnets side who had gone so close to promotion in 2022-3. With the experience gained here and out on loan, maybe Smith was the player to kick the Norfolk side up a gear.