The man who broke Ashington hearts 41 years ago visits Woodhorn Lane

Martin Smith visited Ashington to take in a game, 41 years after breaking the Colliers' hearts.
Martin Smith visited Ashington to take in a game, 41 years after breaking the Colliers' hearts.

A former non league footballer finally fulfilled a promise that he made over 40 years ago when he watched a match at Ashington’s Woodhorn Lane last week.

Martin Smith, born in East London, was a member of the Bishops Stortford side which broke Colliers hearts and dreams back in 1974 in the FA Amateur Cup.

Smith, a centre back, recalled the memories when he said: “It was the 1973-74 season and we were drawn against Ashington in the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup.

“The match, which was played at Sunderland’s former ground at Roker Park, finished goalless and was a very tight affair and Ashington could well have won it.

“In the replay at Brentford’s Griffin Park we ran out 3-0 victors.

“I felt sorry for the Ashington lads as they had played at least ten games – twice as many as we did – to progress that far in the competition.

“They played from the preliminary rounds and they must have fancied their chances.

“The year before we had gone out to Slough in the semi-final, who Ashington defeated.

“We then played Ilford in the final at Wembley and triumphed 4-1 in what was to be the last ever Amateur Cup showpiece.”

However, for Smith, a taxi driver in London who will be 70 in April next year, another moment which he will cherish forever arrived late in the game against Ilford.

He said: “We were ahead 3-1 and got a penalty which I took. There were about 12 minutes to go and not so much pressure on me but I was delighted to score.”

Consequently Smith’s spot kick was the last goal scored in the history of the Amateur Cup, which was renamed the FA Vase.

“It was unbelievable and a great honour to play at Wembley,” he said. “But for me, the new stadium doesn’t seem to have the same atmosphere as the old one which had the twin towers.”

Smith added: “I had never been to Ashington before but after the replay game at Brentford, I spoke to a couple of the lads from Wansbeck and said that one day I would come up and watch a game, and although I never saw the old Portland Park ground, I’ve made it, 41 years later!”

Smith had the distinction of making three appearances at Wembley during his career, finishing on the losing side on the other two occasions when he wore the colours of Dagenham & Redbridge.