FORMER Clarets midfielder Paul Smith has pulled on his boots and re-united with Andy Payton to help bring the glory days back to Burnley.
The duo played an integral part in cementing the Clarets survival in the old Second Division under the guidance of Chris Waddle during the 1997/98 season. And they also combined to fire Burnley into what became the Championship just two seasons later.
But their expertise isn’t required at Turf Moor this time as they look to lift Burnley Grammar School Old Boys off the foot of the East Lancashire Football League First Division. Smith has so far endured two 4-3 defeats since his arrival, but admits that he is enjoying the experience.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’ve been away from it all for a little while and Andy wanted to get me back into it. I’ve played two games so far and it’s been really enjoyable. We’ve both been offering our experience and giving advice along the way.”
Smith joined the Clarets as a trainee and went on to make 93 appearances for the club, scoring five goals. His first came in his ninth appearance during the 1996/97 campaign away at Watford, but he only had to wait until his second game for Burnley GSOB to find the back of the net.
“I scored a free-kick at the weekend, it was 20 yards out and I bent it over the wall and into the far corner,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing that go in.
“I hope I can bring success. Once football is in your blood you just want to play. I’ve had my time but I still want to play well at this level and be the best player on the pitch.”
Smith suffered a recurrence of a knee injury, sustained during his professional days, on his debut but battled through the pain. Now he feels he can still make an impact after sweeping the board of player-of-the-year awards at Sheffield FC for the 2008/09 season and playing at a high standard with Hucknall Town a year ago.
“I was playing in the Northern Premier League Premier Division up until December; it is a drop in standard but it’s more about enjoying it now, getting fit and meeting new friends in Burnley. It feels like I’ve come home so I’m happy.”