This is a new feature and, who knows, maybe a short-lived one.
I started it this week with Nicky Eaden, and it is where I take one player who played for both our upcoming opponents and us and do a short profile on them. I’m still agonising over whether the title should have a question mark in it. What do you think?
Anyway, on with today’s slightly obscure former Imp – Ben Smith.
Ben Smith was born into football; his Dad Simon had been on the books of Newcastle United and played more than 500 times for Gateshead between 1985 and 1995. Ben followed in his footsteps to a degree; he came through the Newcastle academy and, like his Dad, didn’t make the first team. He left the Magpies and after a trial at Leeds, signed for Stockport County, but left for Doncaster without playing a game.
He did appear for our South Yorkshire rivals, debuting on 24th October 2006 as they drew 2-2 with Wycombe in the Carling Cup. He went on to play 23 times in all competitions, 13 of those appearances in League One. The following season, following Neil Sullivan’s arrival at the club, Smith moved to City on loan.
It could be said we didn’t really need a loan keeper, but Peter Jackson didn’t fancy club legend Alan Marriott, for some reason. Mazza played just three games under the new boss before Smith arrived; Chester (lost 1-0), Chesterfield (lost 4-2, Jack Lester hattrick) and Forest in the FA Cup (1-1).
Smith’s arrival didn’t stem the flow of goals as we lost 1-0 in his opening game against Wycombe Wanderers. Further thrashings against Darlington (4-0) and Hereford (3-1) followed as well as defeats by Bradford (2-1) and Grimsby (1-0). Once it dawned on our manager that perhaps Marriott wasn’t to blame Smith was returned to Doncaster. He played nine games during which we conceded 15 goals and picked up just ten points. Oddly, Mazza was immediately recalled to the side and kept the first clean sheet of Jacko’s reign in our 2-0 win away at Rochdale.
Smith returned to Doncaster, but didn’t play for them again that season, or the next. In 2009/10 he played twice in the Carling Cup, then had a short stint on loan with Morecambe, covering for Barry Roche. His final game for the Shrimpers was (obviously) a 3-1 win against the Imps. His final game for Rovers came on the last day of the season, where he kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Swansea City.
That led him to Shrewsbury, where he got his longest run of games, 29 in total, as they made the play-offs in 2010/11. For the record, yes he did play as they stuffed us 5-1 at the Bank, and in the run-in towards the end of the season he kept six clean sheets in seven games, conceding just two goals. Those goals came in the play-off semi-final, which they lost 2-0 on aggregate. The following season he lasted until the end of September before being replaced, and eventually released in May 2012. He later played for Rochdale and Southport, before hanging up his gloves.
Ben is now a successful businessman, owning several businesses in Shrewsbury with his wife, having settled there during a playing spell.