Mark Smith on Boro v Newcastle United

Former Stevenage defender revisits Boro v Newcastle in ‘98

MARK Smith is still going strong.

At the age of 42 – Smith turns 43 on Friday – the former Boro defender still pulls on his shin pads and boots every Saturday afternoon, currently for Carl Williams’ Hitchin Town in the Zamaretto Division One Central.

If any Boro fan has watched him play in recent years they might recall a defender that has lost that little bit of pace, but what he lacks over 30 yards with his legs he more than makes up for with his brain as he organises his team from the back forwards.

Back in 1998 Smith was at the heart of Boro’s defence as Paul Fairclough’s men took the Magpies to an FA Cup replay after a 1-1 draw at Broadhall Way, and Smith says he has great memories of two exciting games of football.

“They were brilliant games, really good occasions,” Smith told The Comet. “You couldn’t ask for more as a non-league player and you can still see all the big incidents - the goals, the goal line clearances, the atmosphere.

“The stadium was humongous in the replay. We played up at Gateshead the week before and went to look at Newcastle’s ground before the game and it was more intimidating when it was empty because it was huge.

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“We walked up to top of the seats, looked down and it was such a great stadium. On the match day, more importantly, we didn’t let it affect us and we worked really hard and put in a really good performance.

“We played well over the two games, and after going behind in the first match early on we thought ‘oh my God’ but we kept our heads up and didn’t let it affect us, and I just hope the Stevenage lads can do the same this time around.

“I’ve got a video at my mum’s place of the Newcastle games, though I’ve never watched it, but my mum’s always getting it out to show visitors and tell them I played against Newcastle.

“I didn’t see the draw, but I got lots of calls and texts from friends telling me about it. I wish them all the best.”

Smith faces a trip to Slough Town on January 8, but he joked that he would try to get the game off so he could see Stevenage’s FA Cup tie insteaed.

“That’d be great. I’d love to see that, but I can’t see Carl letting me off for that one. Maybe if I can get him a ticket!

“It’s going to be a great game with the likes of Andy Carroll coming down here. Andy is still a young player, but he’s big, he’s strong and robust, and he’s going to be a handful but it’ll be a good test for Stevenage and I can’t wait.”

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