Stalwart Preston-born footballer Jonathan Smith is bringing the curtain down on his proud professional career.
The 34-year-old is set to move on to the next chapter of his life after spending the past 16 or so years plying his trade for clubs such as Luton Town, Swindon Town and Chesterfield.
Having begun his career at Morecambe, Smith also went on to represent Forest Green Rovers, York City and Stevenage – the vast majority of his time in the game spent at League Two or National League – the top flight of non-league football – level.
He has experienced plenty of good times, a few bad moments but there is a plethora of memories to look back upon.
Playing under former Italian maverick Paolo Di Canio at Swindon is one of his career highlights, although his favourite days were spent at Kenilworth Road where he now enjoys cult hero status among supporters.
There is a certain sadness that his career in the professional game is coming to an end but there are certainly no regrets for the proud Prestonian, who believes he has maximised his ability and talent.
“I gave it everything I have got that’s for sure,” said Smith, who lives in his home town with partner Lisa and two children Alice (6) and two-year-old Elsie.
“I dedicated my life to the game – I didn’t come through an academy or anything. I battled my way up and I think anybody who ever saw me play would agree I gave it my all.
“I will concede I am not the most amazing player but when I was on the pitch or in training, I think people will say I always gave 100%.
“I don’t think I could have given any more in terms of my dedication to it.”
His 35th birthday is still a few months away and Smith revealed he does have offers to continue playing professionally in the National League.
But he believes it is time to look to the future and lay down some firm roots, especially with his young family in mind.
“It is a massive decision for me to finish with the game professionally,” said Smith, who has spent the past three years with Chesterfield.
“It’s all I have known really. Everything in my life has revolved around the next game, then the next game
“I just think now is the time to move on to the next stage.
“There are options for me to stay in the full-time game but it’s all about location really.
“I have got two young kids and do I want to move away just for the sake of a another year at National League level?
“The past year has been tough – with the Covid-19 pandemic and playing without fans.
“I have a few other things going on and it just feels like the right time to finish playing professionally.”
Although players at the higher end of the game earn salaries which mean they will never have to worry about working once their careers are finished, such luxury does not await players like Smith, who have operated at the lower end of the ladder.
Not that he is entering into playing retirement with his eyes wide shut – the exact opposite in fact.
He already boasts a degree in journalism, which he attained during his years as pro, and he is keen to pursue opportunities within the media. However, coaching is something which is close to his heart.
This summer he is hosting a multi-sports camp for primary school-aged children during the holidays.
Held at Howick Primary School, in Preston, the event will take place from August 16 to 20, from 9am to 3pm.
“I am excited for what the future holds, said Smith.
“I have worked really hard to put plans in place so that when I finished playing, it was not a case of ‘ What’s next?
“I have the opportunity to go into schools and do some work coaching children. But my degree is in journalism and I would like to keep my eye in with that, even if it’s just bits of commentary work.
“One of my old clubs Luton are always asking me to do bits of co-commentary for them especially when they are playing up north at clubs like Preston or Blackburn.
“I really do enjoy that, being around the Press box.
“So that is something I would like to carry.
“But what I have done is get involved with a company called Active Sport.
“With what’s happened over the past year or so with Covid-19, so many kids have missed out on so much.
“There is an opportunity for me to hold a summer camp and I have set my first one up this year.
“It’s at my daughter’s school, but any child from any school can attend.
“ I have got all my coaching badges in football so that’s my specialism but there will be opportunities for the kids to play other sports as well.
“I have always enjoyed working with young ones and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do that.”
If your child would like to attend the summer camp at Howick School, then please log on to www.active-sport.co.uk.