Kelly Smith has decided to hang up her boots at the age of 38. The Watford born football star helped popularize the women’s game and turned an amateur sport into one that creates money and excitement. More importantly it inspires another generation of girls to take up boots.
She finishes as the top goal scorers in international history. 8 of those goals coming major international tournaments. Smith was a favourite of betting tipsters who liked her for anytime goal scorer for most of her career! She was known for incredible skill and thanks to a strong build was able to be an imposing figure on the pitch. She was one of the first women who could comfortably score from long range.
Kelly Smith was the David Beckham of football, flying the flag for England while also improving the sport itself. Jacqui Oatley of the BBC said of her unique entertainment benefit for the women’s game “Kelly played a huge role in getting people to recognise women’s football as being entertainment,” said broadcaster Jacqui Oatley, who presents the Women’s Football Show. “By getting their attention on television, she helped to get bums on seats. In the rare opportunities for England Women games to be on television, with lots of people watching the team for the first time, she was outstanding and dragged England into the final of Euro 2009.”
Kelly’s career began in 1996 signing for Arsenal as a young woman. It was not long before the attraction of football in USA was too much to ignore. America has broken ahead of the rest of the world in sport once again and offered money to play the game they love. It shouldn’t be that unusal considering ice hockey is a legitimate sport! Smith became the first ever British female professional player. This would be the start of a journey from New Jersey and the Stallions to the Philadelphia Charge.
Unfortunately Kelly was affected by depression and an acute drinking problem which led her to return to the UK and Arsenal. She was treated at the Sporting Chance Clinic and went on to play for Arsenal in her second stint for a good four years. In 66 games, she scored 73 goals and cemented her place as one of the best players in the world. She was voted player of the year in both 2006 and 2007 which turned out to be her peak years.
2009 brought a new challenge in the form of the Women’s Professional League beginning in America and offered the chance to make money in the sport. Kelly could not ignore it again and was selected second overall by the Boston Breakers. This was above the famed Brazilian Marta! Injuries and International duty interrupted her time in Boston but it allowed her to test herself against the best opponents in the world.
She returned to England and Arsenal again to see out her career. She was by no means done though, playing for England till 2015, representing team GB at the 2012 London Olympics and fitting in yet another FA Cup win for Arsenal at the ripe old age of 36. Her record of 46 goals for England remains unbeaten.
Kelly Smith was more than just a player. She was an inspiration that brought spectators and new players to the sport. Her absence will be felt for a year or two but her impact on the game is likely to be felt for many more than that.