Kane Smith said that without one simple decision and a whole lot of faith from Mark Burke, he may well have never reached the heights of the professional game.

The Stevenage right-back was as shocked as everyone else when Burke took the decision to step down as Canaries' boss on Tuesday evening after 11 years in the role.

Smith had been with Burke and Hitchin as a teenager and it was those days, and the manager himself, that helped him earn a move to Boro via the National League and Boreham Wood.

"I was shocked, yeah," admitted the 28-year-old. He’s been there 11 years and it feels a lot longer. Obviously he played there as well. 

"It was a shock but we [still] have a little group chat as well so there were a load of messages for him, which was brilliant. 

"He gave me that platform to play. I thought I was a centre-midfielder at one point but he put me to right-back and I've never looked back. 

"I've got a lot of gratitude for him and we still speak all the time. That team was six or seven years ago but we still speak, he’s always messaging us, like a like a dad really. 

"Like I said, if it wasn’t for him sticking me at right-back for one game, I could have still been at Hitchin now. 

"He had faith in me to play even at a young age, I was 18 but he put me in."

Smith says that was one of Burke's qualities, a belief in the player regardless of age. That and the way he was able to mould a squad, like he did in the three years from 2014 when Smith was at Top Field.

He said: "It was just how he inspired the boys, especially me. He gave me a chance, my first time in men's football really. 

"And he got a group together, which honestly, you would never put a group together like that, but somehow it worked for him and it worked for us. 

"Brett Donnelly was the older head and he got brought the youngsters in like me, Will Wright, Lucas Kirkpatrick and Liam Brooks and everyone like that. 

"I think we repaid that faith back then but he still does that now, puts youngsters in.

"They were flying at the start of the season, close to the play-offs with a young squad. He doesn't shy away from putting youngsters in. 


"But I think we've all got to applaud him for how well he's done."