Smith leads interesting life after pro’ football
By Warren LucyWith a degree in business, his own football academy and an autobiography on the way, Ben Smith isn’t your average footballer.
Former Crawley Town midfielder Smith, is a multilinguist and continues to listen to Spanish podcasts
when walking his dog, Oakley.
Oh, and did I mention he still combines part-time playing duties with Thurrock, whilst teaching at a school near his home in Witham, Essex?
Smith, who is fondly remembered during his three years with the Reds, certainly took the long road in earning his degree: “I started it when I was at Shrewsbury, and living in Worcester”, the 34-year-old said. “I began doing a HNC, then I moved to Weymouth so had to relocate and do it at Weymouth College.
I then moved to Hereford in my second year and continued the course at Telford College.
“I did distance learning for a bit but spent a lot of the time at Worcester College, which is part of an affiliation of Birmingham University. I finally finished my dissertation when I moved to Crawley. In total, I did a four-and-a-half year degree across three different institutions.”
Ben, who first thought that learning another language would take “about a year”, joined a night school in 2010 and has been doing it ever since.
“I’ve got a Spanish pen-pal called Alejandra”, he said. “She’s from Mexico and I e-mail her chatting about the normal stuff. She says my Spanish is improving, but it’s so hard. I’ve been doing it for three years and I’m getting there with it.”
Ben admits he had to make a decision on what the future held after his release from Reds, deciding to finish his professional career to make his first steps away from being an athlete on a full-time basis.
“I didn’t want to be one of those players that ended up being desperate for football, playing till the end”, he explains.
“Oxford offered me a three-month contract but I had to prepare myself for life after football.
“Teaching is really tough, it turns out that kids don’t listen to you just because you were good at football once!”
For Smith, he’s back where it all started, at the Witham Academy, where he spent his days as a youngster. Meeting his old PE teacher in the gym, he went back to school to run sessions on the odd occasion, before becoming a regular fixture.
“I’ve sort of gone full circle! I teach everything, from economics to philosophy. When people ask for my job title, I say “teacher/crowd manager!” I get thrown into all sorts of classes; it’s quite crosscurricular. I’ve got Maths first thing tomorrow!”
Ben’s involvement with Essex Futsal, a five-a-side style game, is something he enjoys doing, running it with a close friend.
“It’s the way I like to play,” said Smith. “It’s worked for the Spanish and we’ve had a few lads that have gone on trial at Southend and West Ham. A mate of mine told me about this futsal company he was setting up and I decided to join him. We’ve got a few different centres across Essex and it’s something I began doing when I first joined Crawley.”
Ben’s book, From Nowhere to Obscurity has almost been completed and there’s a treat for Reds fans, when it is eventually available.
“I’ve always been interested in reading and I just want it to be honest.” Smith admits. “I’ve done
73,000 words at the moment and I’ve still got five years of my career left. Over the school holidays I’m going to try and get it finished and ideally, get it out by Christmas.
“I’ve written it myself and a journalist called James Barrett edits it a little bit for me. I might change the name to From Arsenal to Obscurity, because that was where I started out. The Crawley fans will be happy because I kept a diary from just before I joined the club so there’ll be lots of stories about my time at Crawley, as I updated it every day.
Smith, who grabbed the famous winning goal in the FA Cup 2nd round replay against Swindon in 2011, is hopeful the book will sell well: “I’m confident it’s good and if you like football, you’ll relate to it, because it’s just about a normal geezer!”