Richard Smith

Former Player Remembers: Richard Smith

Recently, Club Historian John Hutchinson talked to life-long Leicester City fan Richard Smith about his career in football.
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He joined the Club as a schoolboy and was a YTS player before becoming a professional and going on to play for the Foxes at Wembley and in the Premier League. He then played for Grimsby Town in what is now the Championship before injury forced him to retire prematurely. He now owns and runs his Lutterworth-based BASH Skip Hire company.

Richard began by talking about his goal against Crystal Palace.

He said: “Palace had been the FA Cup Finalists a couple of years earlier in 1990. They were in the top flight and came with a good pedigree. We were in Division Two (now the Championship) then, but we held our own throughout the game. It was a good battle. I remember Millsy (Gary Mills) floating the ball over and I stretched my leg out. I connected with the ball so well. My reaction was to not quite believe it! It was a shock! I remember Walshy and Paul Kitson diving on me. After that it was a bit of a blur. I’ve got a recording of the goal somewhere. It’s something to show the kids. It was nice to be in all the newspapers that weekend with headlines like “Richard the Lion Heart”. People remember the goal and the jubilant celebrations at the end of the game because it was just one of those moments. There was a full house at Filbert Street and we hadn’t been past the Third Round for so many years so there was a desperation to get through."

Richard became a Leicester City fan at an early age.

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Richard Smith

Smith made 120 appearances for Leicester City between 1990 and 1995.

He continued: “One of my first ever games, when I was about six or seven was a friendly game against Hibernian. George Best, with his massive beard was playing. My dad took me down. We were in the Double Decker, right in the corner. We then started going down on a regular basis, first in the East Stand and then the Family Stand.

"My football took off at Blaby Stokes Primary School. I was a first year junior playing with the fourth years. We won three Rice Bowl Finals I was a right-winger at the time. I was quite fast and fearless. I was asked to go to Leicester’s Belvoir Drive training ground in the school holidays when I was about eight or nine. Jock Wallace was the manager. Paul Kitson, from Sunderland was also there. We watched the pros train. They were good times and I was really proud to be part of the Club.

"Jon Sammels used to take the School of Excellence. He taught me everything about the ball. He was so skilful. We were given a School of Excellence uniform: grey shirts with your name and number on, white shorts and socks. It was amazing.

"We worked our way through to the youth team and then spent a couple of years on the YTS scheme earning £27.50 a week in the first year and £35 the year after. We used to start at 7.30 am and finish at 5pm. We cleaned boots, cleaned and painted the changing room, and worked with the groundsman forking the pitch and painting lines on a Friday. We also did work experience in the Club shop. It gave you a real feeling for the Club. Catching the bus back home to Blaby I sometimes fell asleep.

When David Pleat left, Gordon Lee took over. I had a good relationship with him. I trained hard every day. My heart was really in it.

Richard Smith

"When I was 18, David Pleat offered myself, Ian Barraclough and Paul Kitson professional contracts on about £200 per week. Signing as a professional was massive.

"A big thing for me was to go on loan to Cambridge in the old Fourth Division. Dion Dublin and Lee Philpott were there. I played for them in the Littlewoods (League) Cup against Derby with Peter Shilton in goal and Dean Saunders up front. It took about five hours to get to Cambridge by train. It was a great experience."

After a loan spell at Nuneaton, Richard was back at Filbert Street in 1990, making a few appearances, before David Pleat left the Club in January 1991.

“When David Pleat left, Gordon Lee took over," he said. "I had a good relationship with him. I trained hard every day. My heart was really in it. When Brian Little arrived (in May 1991) the whole club changed. He changed a lot of things to do with discipline, rules and regulations. He changed the approach to play as well. With had three centre-halves and two full-backs who were more or less centre-halves. He wanted to build a strong defensive unit and work from there. I fitted in to what he wanted to do. He liked the fact that I had a long throw-in and that I was quick.

In Brian’s second season, I only missed two games, through suspension. The season ended with the Wembley defeat in the Play-Off Final against Swindon (for a place in the Premier League). We were completely deflated after that. We walked off the Wembley pitch past the City fans with our heads down Nevertheless it was one of the proudest moments of my life, playing at Wembley. I didn’t want to leave the Stadium, and walked around trying to savour everything as much as I could. Obviously we lost but the memories will stay with me forever. It’s one thing to play for your Club on a regular basis but to play for it at the Twin Towers is something else! I was very proud."

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Richard Smith

Smith recalled facing Andy Cole (pictured) and Peter Beardsley, who he labelled one of his most difficult opponents.

The following season, Richard was hindered by hamstring injuries, which may well have been the start of the long term back problem which eventually finished his career. Richard was fit however for Leicester City’s first ever game in the Premier League against Newcastle United in August 1994.

“It was a massive difference in standard," Smith said. "I was up against Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley, who was my most difficult opponent ever. He was so difficult to get hold of. I was hampered by injuries that season but still got to play against the likes of Alan Smith and Ian Wright, legends in the game.

"I had a really good relationship with Brian Little. I had a lot of admiration and respect for him. The two of us went fishing together in Norway. We often had chats about fishing and other stuff. He was a great person to know. When he left for Villa (in November 1994), it left a massive void for me. Mark McGhee came in. He had his own way of doing things and my appearances were restricted. I never really saw eye to eye with him."

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Richard Smith

Smith played in Leicester City’s first ever game in the Premier League against Newcastle United in August 1994.

A year later, Martin O’Neill was appointed manager.

“When Martin arrived he had one-to-one meetings with everyone," he explained. "He said that although he was happy for me to stay, he couldn’t guarantee me regular football. Grimsby Town’s Brian Laws came in and offered me first Division (now Championship) regular football which I needed."

Richard played 99 games for the Mariners but his injuries forced him to retire in 2001 aged 30. He now owns and runs his own Skip Hire Company, BASH Skip Hire, based at Lutterworth.

“I’d done a bit of property development," he added. "We’d used a lot of skips on these jobs so we looked at that as an area to go into. I started off with one lorry, which I drove myself, and a few skips about seven or eight years ago. The waste industry and recycling is massive. The opportunities are endless and the business is growing well. It’s good that Leicester City fans use us, although it has been pointed out that our company colours are red rather than blue!”

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