Day of high emotion for Arsenal legend Kelly
23 February, 2017 — By Catherine Etoe
Marieanne Spacey (left) and Kelly Smith. Pictures: Catherine Etoe
ARSENAL fans came out in their thousands on Sunday to bid an emotional farewell to one of the most talented players to have ever worn the shirt.
Kelly Smith, who scored 125 goals during three spells with the club, announced her retirement in January and later revealed that she was pregnant with her first child.
Described by supporters and colleagues alike as “Arsenal through and through”, she scored twice at Highbury to win the league in her debut season in 1996/97 and went on to win every club title while in Arsenal colours, including the European Cup in 2007.
Arsenal superfan Maria ‘Come on you Gunners’ Petri is among the crowd
As the first Englishwoman to play professionally in America, England’s all-time record goal scorer and four-times nominated FIFA world player of the year, Smith will go down in the history books as the best this country has ever produced.
And so it was fitting to see a string of top class players both past and present take to the pitch at a packed Meadow Park for an exhibition match against Arsenal Ladies in honour of the 38-year-old.
Featuring fellow Gunners legend Marieanne Spacey, former England boss Hope Powell and marquee signings Heather O’Reilly and Kim Little, the entertaining match was as notable for its flowing football as the joke fouls and silly moments that are so often a part of tribute games to great players.
Kelly Smith’s All-Stars XI and the current Arsenal Ladies squad, who ran out 4-2 winners
After a 4-2 defeat the “Kelly Smith’s All-Stars XI” manager was clearly moved by the presence of past and present team-mates and more than 2,350 fans.
“Arsenal football club have put on a spectacle for me and I’m just really delighted to see so many who have supported me over the years, so many fans who have turned out to thank me for my career,” she said.
Smith, who is studying her UEFA A coaching badge, will now oversee Arsenal Ladies development squad, a move welcomed by her former England team-mate and manager, Powell. “For England she’s been a great ambassador. She’s also been a great club player, she’s been Arsenal through and through,” Powell told the New Journal.
“Unfortunately your career does come to an end, [but] the nice thing is she’s still involved in it and that’s really good for the game.”