Matt Healey continues the series.

Kevan Smith was born in Eaglescliffe on the 13th December 1959.

He started his career at Darlington making his debut in 1979. After 245 appearances for the Quakers he then linked up with Rotherham. He then joined top flight Coventry City, then spent a season with York City and then re-joined Darlington in 1989 playing a further 98 games.

In October 1992 Smith signed for Hereford United initially on a one month loan. I asked him what persuaded him to make the lengthy journey from the north east to the welsh border.

“Hereford was a down to earth place with a reputation for their FA Cup exploits. I knew Greg Downs (Hereford Manager) from our days together at Coventry City. It didn’t take much persuasion to join Hereford as things had gone sour at Darlington for me. Brian Little had left as manager after securing two back to back promotions for the club and had joined Leicester City and later took them to the Premier League”

Smith continues “I had applied for the managers job at Darlington when Brian left, but unfortunately I didn’t get it, the role went to an unsavory character called Billy McEwan. I knew when I didn’t get the job my time then was coming to an end. McEwan tried to force me out. He stripped me of the captaincy and I was forced to train on my own. I had to stay at the club for one more season as I was due a testimonial against Middlesbrough at the end of the 1992/1993 season for my ten years service”

I asked Smith how he got on with the move down to Hereford. At the time Darlington were playing in the same league as Hereford “It worked out really well. Greg (Downs) put me up in his house when I first came down and he let me travel back up to Darlington in the week to stay with my family when I needed too, Greg was very accommodating”

Kevan Smith – October 1992

Smith made his Hereford debut in a 3-1 win over Torquay United on the 17th October 1992 and enjoyed pitting his wits in a physical battle against the late Justin Fashanu who played up front for the visitors that day. This victory was the first home win of the season for the Bulls.

Smith told the Hereford United official programme at the time “I had a bit of cramp after my first game against Torquay, but the lads played really well. I’m not part of the managers plans at Darlington so I’m happy to come down to Hereford and help them out”

Hereford United 3-1 Torquay United – 17th October 1992Kevan Smith battles with Justin Fashanu

Gareth Davies was a first year professional at Edgar Street and was tipped for future stardom. (He would later play in the Premier League for Crystal Palace), but at the age of 18 the young centre half was learning his trade in the physical world of 3rd Division football (Now League Two) and this was his first season as a professional after making his debut the previous campaign as a YTS player. Smith was bought in to help Davies develop as a player. He would teach Davies some old school tricks to make the Welsh Under 21 international a little bit more streetwise. Smith played a total of six league games for the Bulls in his initial loan spell.

Hereford United 3-0 Halifax Town – 31st October 1992- Kevan Smith celebrates with Gareth Davies who has just scored his first league goal

Smith then returned to Darlington after his loan spell expired to see out his contract and was given a free transfer at Feethams when the season ended.

Smith signed the following campaign for Hereford on a one year contract, but missed the first games few of the season. Hereford had lost their initial four league games and were rock bottom and needed defensive reinforcements. I asked him why there was a delay in him signing.

Smith said “I went back up north after my loan spell at Hereford ended and saw out the season with Darlington. Eventually I had my free transfer from the club and then played for Sliema Wanderers in Malta. I played in Euorpe with them. I then came back to England in the September and Greg (Downs) called me and I signed a one year contract at Hereford”

Smith returned to the Bulls side on the 4th September 1993 as Hereford earnt their first points of the season with a 2-1 win battling away at Scunthorpe United.

Kevan Smith and Gareth Davies – September 1993

I asked Smith what games he remembers from his time at Edgar Street.

He tells me “I absolutely loved my time at Hereford, the lads, the ground, the people. It all blended into my personality. I felt right at home, the Wimbledon games in the League Cup were great, we rolled our sleeves up . I came across Vinnie Jones during my Coventry days so knew about him”

I mention nervously the 6-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra a few weeks later, “I had played a lot of games in my career and I would always analyse myself, then the other centre halfs, then the back four and the whole team. It was just a bad day for everybody, it was like being stood on the M1 at times with the bombardment from Crewe”

Smith was a regular in the Hereford line up and shared central defensive duties with Gareth Davies, Gareth Abraham and Dave Morris. He also played for the Bulls live on television “We went to Bath in the FA Cup 2nd round and it was live on SKY, it was a physical game, John Sillett the ex Hereford manager and my old gaffer at Coventry City was doing the commentary. The Bath striker (Adie Mings) smashed his knee into my back and dislodged my spine. I was in absolute agony and had to go off. It pretty much ended my career playing in that match”

After the Bath injury, Smith played five more games for Hereford. Ironically his last Football League appearance was against Darlington in a 1-1 draw on the 8th January 1994.

The back injury sustained at Bath would end Smith’s professional career and he would leave the Edgar Street at the end of the season.

“I was still under contract at Hereford but I knew I would be released as my back was giving me so much pain, so I went back up north and got a couple of orthopedic guys to take a look at my spine. I was expecting to be told to rest up for a couple of months. Previously I had been told that I had a back like a 60 year old and if I was to continue playing then I would end up in a wheelchair. I had a 2nd opinion and was told that my professional career was finished, the impact to my bones in my back was like a car crash, but I managed through it and I ended up playing semi professionally at Whitby for a bit”

After returning to Darlington as their football in the community officer Smith would cross paths with Brian Little again. “Brian got the job at Hull City and went there as his assistant. We had just over a year there but fell on our swords and left even though we were in 5th position in the table. I could have joined Brian at Tranmere Rovers when he got the managers position there, but my wife had a good job and my children were settled at school so I didn’t want to uproot my family down to Merseyside”

I finish my asking Smith if he is still in the game “After my time at Hull City I ran a commercial cleaning company. We have regular reunions at Coventry City and I still do media bits for Darlington”

Kevan Smith 2019

*Photos supplied by Ron Parrott and Kevan Smith