Farmers' farewell to the Light fantastic
Milton LindsayThe local soccer scene will just a shade or two darker in a few days' time when a towering striker known as 'Lighthouse' hangs up his boots. For the past decade flame-haired Steve Smith has been the beacon of hope in the midst of the motley footballing crew known as the Dancing Farmers, who have yo-yoed their way up, and mainly down, the lower divisions of the Evening News Norwich Sunday League.Milton Lindsay
The local soccer scene will just a shade or two darker in a few days' time when a towering striker known as 'Lighthouse' hangs up his boots.
For the past decade flame-haired Steve Smith has been the beacon of hope in the midst of the motley footballing crew known as the Dancing Farmers, who have yo-yoed their way up, and mainly down, the lower divisions of the Evening News Norwich Sunday League.
'He really does make a massive difference to us,' said Farmers secretary Phil Gray. 'If he is about we will score goals - if he is not then we find it difficult.'
But at least Steve will depart the side, chasing promotion just a year after narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon for being the league's worst team, with his lofty head held high.
A proven scorer, season in season out, Steve passed the 250-goal milestone with a hat-trick in Sunday's Division 4a 4-2 win over Earlham Colney 86 and will soon end his playing days to spend time with wife Emily and his 20-month-old daughter Ellie.
He won't miss the aches and pains, becoming increasingly difficult to shake off at the age of 34, but he will miss the laughs, of which there have been many, even if the honours have been few, far too few to mention.
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'Our game has always been based on enjoyment. They are a great bunch of lads. I shall always follow their fixtures and I am going to miss them terribly but I shall honour the commitment I made to my wife and child,' said Steve.
Of his nickname, he said: 'Because I am tall and have got ginger hair I can be seen for miles around.
'In terms of nicknames it's not bad, better than some, - at least there is a semblance of truth in it,' added the general manager for Delia's Canary Catering at Carrow Road.
Steve suffered a disastrous start to life with the Dancing Farmers in January 2001 when he broke his foot after kicking a radiator heating pipe by accident in his first training session at Wensum Lodge.
He eventually emerged in September that year to form one of local football's most endearing and enduring relationships, scoring goals in victory and defeat ever since.
'The highlights have been scoring seven in a game against Gardeners Arms which we won 14-2 a few years ago and we have had some really great battles over the years in the lower divisions with teams such as Horsford, Old Catton, Dynamo Denmark and Spixworth.'
He added: 'We really haven't won anything apart from the wooden spoon game against AFC Mousehold which I didn't play in last season. We have had promotions but not because we finished first or second but because of teams dropping out. Hopefully we can finish third this year. We have got a decent goalkeeper and a good centre back and it's made such a difference.'
But before Steve can quit the stage there is a treat in store for him in the final game, at Thorpe High School against Norwich Airport on April 11, when his versatility will be put to the test.
'I will be expected to play in every position, ending up in goal. I shall be captain and I'll take every free kick and penalty going - I'm looking forward to it.'
Canary ticket office worker Phil Gray, club secretary for the Farmers team made up of Carrow Road staff, said the talismanic figure would be a hard act to follow, highlighting his set-up play as well as his goalscoring.
'He could have played for a better side but he's been a part of Farmers from the start really - an absolute legend. He is basically Iwan Roberts but on a Sunday. When he has got a goatee he looks a dead ringer for him.'
t FACTFILE AND TRIBUTES
Steve Smith started playing for the Dancing Farmers in 2002. Over the past eight years he has played 182 games and scored 251 goals and he has seen his tally go from 20 in a season to the dizzy heights of 48 in one season.
The Flame Haired Lighthouse has scored 31 in 18 appearances so far this season. He netted 27 last season. His best haul over the years was seven in one game.
Phil Gray: He can score with both feet and his head and just makes it look easy. He's passionate about his football, Dancing Farmers and Norwich City.
(He even got on the pitch at the Play-Off final in 2002 to give start the chant of On the Ball City).
Chris Moore (Death): I can't believe it has taken him that long. I went past 250 10 years ago.
Pete Baitey (Baitey): In my opinion his best ever Farmers game was in the cup away at Thetford when he even donned the keepers jersey! The most natural ginger I've ever seen. Bring back Beaker!
Adam Woodard (Abs): Steve is the most natural goal scorer I've ever seen. When he is through on goal you may as well start walking back to the centre circle. Truly phenomenal! He will be missed but never replaced.