FORMER fans’ favourite Ben Smith has turned down the opportunity to return to Weymouth as a player-coach.
The 33-year-old, who made 44 appearances for the Terras from 2006-07, was released by Crawley Town earlier this month and is currently looking for a new club but the Bob Lucas Stadium will not be his next destination despite boss Brendon King’s best efforts.
Smith said: “I had a brief conversation with the Weymouth manager who asked what I am up to but obviously I want to continue playing as high as I can and at the moment I don’t really want to relocate. So, in that respect, it wasn’t really a goer but it was nice to have a conversation with him nonetheless.
“He said about coaching but I just want to solely concentrate on playing still for the next couple of years.”
Smith went on to say: “Although I enjoy coaching I do not feel ready to go down that route at this stage. I also think it is hard to coach and play for the same team.
“A couple of coaching opportunities have come up and in three years’ time they would be great but I have always felt it is important not to rush into these things.
“I have enjoyed longevity as a player and in the future I want to do the same as a coach but the key to that is making sure I have all the tools to do the job properly first, rather than just jumping into something.
“I am working hard at the moment picking up qualifications and if I can gain some experience along the way in an academy or something like that, that would be perfect until I feel ready to move on to the next stage.”
Smith helped Weymouth win promotion to the Conference during his 12-month stay and also held the armband for a time before eventually moving on to Hereford United after the Dorset club were forced to transfer-list their entire squad due to financial difficulties.
Since then the Terras have suffered two relegations and have been struggling at the lower end of the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division for the last two years. When asked for his thoughts on the club’s recent demise, Smith added: “I think it has bottomed out now and from what I hear the right people are now in charge.
“If they can stop the boom and bust, and build slowly for the future, then I have no doubts that the club can start climbing the leagues again.
“A club of that size should be playing in the Blue Square Premier.
“Just before I left there, we were getting crowds around the 2-3,000 mark, and it is possible for them to get that level of support again but it is going to have to be done gradually over three, four or even five years.
“After the past few years, I would think the people of Weymouth would be happy with just a couple of boring seasons now.
“The key is to improve year on year, and if the manager can do that then promotion will inevitably follow at some point.
“Time is not always given in football but if the new board can dampen down expectations and add a bit of realism, hopefully people will understand the situation and give the club the time it needs to rebuild.”
Smith’s time at the Terras fell under the regime of Martyn Harrison, who passed away earlier this month.
Commenting on the sad loss, Smith said: “Martyn was the driving force behind all the success we had down there.
“His enthusiasm and financial backing turned Weymouth into a progressive club and one all us players wanted to be a part of.
“That was the reason we all went down there and it was just a shame it all ended as abruptly as it did.
“Martyn’s heart was always in the right place and he always had the best interests of the club at heart, so the fact he has passed away at such a young age is very sad indeed.”