Jim Smith

Jim Smith who passed away on 10th December 2019 aged 79 is regarded by most Boston United fans as the greatest manager the club has ever had. He laid the foundations of Boston becoming one of the biggest non-league teams at the time. He joined Boston United in the summer of 1969 following a chance meeting with United’s chairman Ernest Malkinson. Smith had just been released by Lincoln City after being told he was too old to play for them at 28 and was about to join Scunthorpe United. However, when visiting his friend Peter Kearns who had also just been released by Lincoln, he found a gold coloured Mercedes parked outside and Mr Malkinson there trying to persuade Kearns to join Boston. Kearns never did join Boston, but Mr Malkinson instead offered Smith the job as Boston's new player-manager.

One of the first things he did when he joined Boston was to appoint a fitness coach to get his part-time players as fit as possible so that he could have quality time with them on their Tuesday and Thursday night training sessions. This innovation paid dividends straight away and was a key factor in the success that his sides enjoyed. Whilst at Boston, his teams never finished out of the top four in the Northern Premier League. He was in charge for some of the most impressive matches in the club's history at York Street. In the 1969/70 season Boston only conceded three league goals at home. His sides also did well at York Street in the FA Cup being narrowly beaten by York City in the Second Round Proper in 1970/1 and then beating Fourth Division Hartlepool United 2-1 and losing 1-0 to Second Division Portsmouth in the Third Round Proper the following season. Surprisingly however Boston only picked up a single trophy whilst he was in charge - the Eastern Professional Floodlit Cup in 1972. As a player he turned out 180 times for Boston scoring 24 goals.

Being full-time player-manager was only one of his duties. He had to handle all the administration, spotting and signing players and sorting out their contracts and registration. He also took over the running of the club lottery with his wife Yvonne - "Uncovering more fiddles than you'll find in the London Philharmonic" according to his autobiography "It's Only a Game". Other tasks included sorting out the fabric of the ground. He helped dig new drains, concrete the car park and decorate the Boardroom. He noted that he must have done a good job with the Boardroom as when he brought the teams he went on to manage back to York Street to play friendlies against Boston the wallpaper he had hung had never changed.

His Boston side were some forty games into an unbeaten run of fifty-one league games (a British professional record at the time) when he left the Pilgrims to join League side Colchester United in October 1972 after applying for the job via an advert in the papers. He went on to lose a lot of hair and gain the nickname "The Bald Eagle" and find success managing a plethora of clubs including Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Oxford United, QPR, Newcastle United, Portsmouth and Derby County.

Jim Smith's champagne

When Boston United found themselves without a fixture one Saturday in mid-February 1989, they looked around for a good opponent for a friendly match to fill the gap. Jim Smith's Newcastle United side had been knocked out the FA Cup and Jim had no hesitation in agreeing to bring them down to Boston for the friendly. The biggest name in the Newcastle side was Brazilian World Cup star Francisco Ernandi Lima Da Silva - better known by his nickname of Mirandinha. He had become the first Brazilian footballer to play in the English League when he had joined the Tynesiders for £575,000 in 1987. They also fielded Northern Ireland internationals David McCreery and Michael O'Neill, Danish under 21 international Frank Pingel and were captained by England 'B' international Glenn Roeder. Boston entertained the crowd of 3588 with football that almost matched their illustrious opponents. Stewart Hamill was causing havoc on the right wing and £12,500 defender Paul Shirtliffe frequently dispossessed £260,000 Pingel and Hendrie. A shot by David Grant spun just wide of the post, then a long-range effort by Paul Wilson clipped the bar. Newcastle took the lead two minutes into the second half. Pingel drove the ball home from 15 yards out following good work by Kevin Brock. Newcastle managed to hold on to their lead, ending Boston's run of twelve games without defeat. In appreciation of the visit to York Street, George Bateman presented Jim Smith with a bottle of Lanson Champagne and an engraved Bateman's glass tankard prior to kick-off.

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