Below words by the late Mike Cockerhill
Ron Smith wanted to play for Tottenham Hotspur. Badly. In his summer holidays, he would ride his pushbike from his North London home to Cheshunt, the Spurs training ground, with a couple of mates. They would walk along the riverbank next to the ground, and pull the ivy off the fence so they could peek inside. Without fail, they were at the gates of the training ground when the players would emerge, hunting autographs. Danny Blanchflower. Dave Mackay. John White. Bobby Smith. Les Allen. Legends. Spurs won the double in 1961, and Smith was in heaven. He dreamed of being a professional, and he dreamed of playing for Spurs. His future, so he thought, was pre-ordained.
It doesn’t always work out like that. Smith had promise. But he didn’t get opportunity. At the age of 15, he tore his patella tendon off the bone. Before he had properly recovered there was a chance for a career as a professional with Plymouth Argyle, but Malcolm Allison left the club the day he was due to be scouted.
A year later he was given the chance to trial at Spurs. He worked hard for four months, desperately waiting for his breakthrough with the youth team, but never got the chance. One day, tired of waiting, he went into see the coach of the youth side, Jack Walker. ”You’re the left half, aren’t you?” Walker said. Smith was an inside right. ”That was it,” Smith recalls. ”I was so disillusioned, I left. Whether I would have ever made the grade, I doubt it. But all I know is I never got the chance.”
Life pivots on moments like that. Smith left school, worked in an office and played part-time non-league football.. By the time he was 20, he had had two knee operations. Fate, destiny, call it what you will. For whatever reason, the door to becoming a professional footballer closed. Which is exactly when another door opened.
As a player, Smith never had a problem with technique. What he didn’t know at the time was he had a problem with tactics. Football, in those days, was about instinct. It wasn’t until his own dreams of becoming a professional were shattered by injury that Smith discovered football also had a science. That’s when he became a coach.
Training to become a physical education teacher, Smith had to complete a preliminary Football Association coaching course. It was during his time at the Borough Road College in Isleworth that the penny dropped. The FA instructor, Tommy Tranter was also a lecturer at the College. Smith was transfixed. Tranter became a mentor, an inspiration. ”Suddenly it was all about why things happened,” he says. ”I badgered the life out of everyone for as much information as I could get. I was a sponge.”
Within a couple of years, Smith had his full FA coaching badge. Just five students from a class of 55 passed. Smith, just 22, was the youngest. Coaching has been a fascination, an obsession, ever since.
Almost four decades after he emigrated to Australia – he finished his playing career with South Melbourne – Smith has never lost his enthusiasm. In that time, he has revolutionised coaching standards, created new benchmarks, mentored some of the country’s best coaches, and players, and embraced technology as a cutting-edge coaching tool. He has been head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport, a staff coach with the Socceroos, an A-League coach with Perth Glory, a personal coach to Harry Kewell. Overseas, he has been an instructor for both the Asian Football Confederation and the Oceania Football Confederation. In 1996, he won the Malaysian championship with Sabah, an achievement he still regards as the highlight of his career.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Smith is forever re-educating himself, always on the lookout for the next piece of software. Players and coaches routinely ring the man known as ‘Smudger’ whenever they have a problem. If they’re on the other side of the world, it’s not uncommon for his phone to ring at two o’clock in the morning. Smith always picks up. It’s not unknown for a conversation with ‘Smudger’ to last a couple of hours. Learning, and teaching. Smith and football is the perfect fit. Truth is, it was love at first sight.
|2011-2013||World Cup Qualification|
|2012||Olympic Team Qualification|
|2011||Asia Cup Finals Qatar|
|2010||World Cup South Africa|
|2008||Olympic Games Beijing
|2006||World Cup Germany|
|2004||Olympic Games Athens|
|2008||Ass. Coach Olympic Team
|2004-2006||Football Federation Australia|
|2002-2004||Consulting FFA AIS JFC|
|1998-1999||Johor FC Malaysia|
|1995-1997||Sabah FC Malaysia|
|1982-1995||Australian Institute of Sport|
|1980-1982||Qld State Coach & DOC|
|1979||IBK Keflavik Iceland|
|1976-1977||Ass. Nat. Coach|
|Vic State Coach & DOC|