Ex-Hearts striker Gordon Smith becomes an icon while coaching kids in Australia
In Scotland he is known for scoring in an Edinburgh derby, rattling Tottenham’s crossbar at White Hart Lane and bundling a winner against Auchinleck Talbot to spark Hearts’ historic 2012 Scottish Cup run.
In Western Australia, Gordon Smith is an iconic figure as a result of his modest achievements. He is now 28, working as a full-time painter, part-time striker with Bayswater City, and part-time coach with the club’s under-13s.
He left Scotland four years ago to sample foreign football and was quickly infected with the coaching bug. To the kids at his mercy, he is someone to idolise – a guy who has played in European competition and big UK derbies. They aren’t quite as fussed about the Auchinleck goal.
“I’ve not told them that yet. I don’t really want to show them that goal because I nearly missed it,” laughs Smith.
“Not many boys over here have played in Edinburgh derbies in front of 20,000, or at White Hart Lane. It’s big for the kids and they’re always asking what it was like. They will go on my Wikipedia and say: ‘You did this and that.’ One of them came up to me at training with a video of my goal against Hibs. They take a lot of joy from knowing their coach has played at that standard. I just try to pass on as much advice as I can.”
After 19 goals with ECU Joondalup last season and ten for Bayswater this year, he is regarded as a top striker in Australia’s second tier.
“I enjoyed ECU but I wanted to challenge for things,” says Smith. “Bayswater are a big club and the manager, Chris Coyne, used to play for Dundee. He had been trying to get me for a while.”
The Australian season has just ended having started in February. Smith isn’t happy Bayswater finished fifth but coaching their youth provides huge satisfaction. “I’ve been coaching for four years here and I’ve got my C Licence through the FFA [Football Federation Australia]. You can’t coach a team over here without it. Australians take the coaching seriously and every team has to play out from the back.
“The game in Australia is all about trying to play the right way. You very rarely get channel balls, or long balls, here. The pitches are really good, which encourages people to play on the ground. I really enjoy it. Right now, my visa is being sponsored for me to work as a painter. The sponsor’s name is Andy Bull and he’s actually a massive Hearts fan. That’s my full-time job. I train Tuesday and Thursday with Bayswater and coach the kids for an hour and 15 minutes beforehand.”
Like many Brits who emigrate Down Under, one of his biggest challenges is heat. “In March, you can be playing games in 30-odd degrees. Once the season starts I’m dying for it to get colder because our winter time takes place during British summer time. I’m actually raging when I look at my phone and I see 32 degrees,” he chuckles.
“Perth is a beautiful place to live in. It’s very chilled and it’s got the best beaches in Australia. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially boys back home who are playing part-time football and maybe want to try something different.”
Thoughts of home, and even the trademark wind and rain, are never far from his mind as he applies his daily sun cream. Smith is content on Australia’s west coast. For now.
“I’ve thought about coming home but my visa determines it. I miss my family and my mates but I do really enjoy it over here. I couldn’t really say what I’ll do long-term because I literally change my mind every day.”