There is little that long-serving England forward Kelly Smith failed to achieve in her two-decade international career. However, all good things come to an end with Smith, named an MBE in 2008, drawing the curtain on her Three Lionesses career on Tuesday. FIFA.com takes a look back at just some of the highlights of an iconic figure in women’s football.
A glittering career perhaps reached an off-field pinnacle in 2009 when the-then Boston Beakers player was one of three short-listed for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. Though she finished behind the two superstars of the era – Brazil’s Marta and Germany’s Birgit Prinz – Smith’s nomination was something no other England player has achieved before or since. Little wonder current England manager Mark Sampson was fervent in his praise of Smith: "The term 'world class' is often overused but when looking back over Kelly’s international career she has consistently shown on the biggest stage she was without a doubt one of the greatest ever players.”
Milestones and records
Few if any will ever be able to match Smith’s 18-year Three Lionesses’ resume. She played in four UEFA Women’s EURO’s (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013), two FIFA Women’s World Cups™ (2007 and 2011). She was also part of the Team GB squad at the 2012 London Olympics. Despite several long-term injuries she became just the third Englishwoman to reach 100 caps, behind Gillian Coulthard and Rachel Yankey, completing her career with a total of 117 appearances. Current England midfielder Fara Williams currently holds the record.
It doesn’t quite match Brandi Chastain’s shirt-removing celebration when USA won the Women’s World Cup in 1999, but Smith enjoyed her own iconic celebration eight years later at China 2007. Smith scored a late double against Japan in their tournament opener and celebrated by slipping off her boot and kissing it. The 2-2 draw proved pivotal in England reaching the knockout stage at the Nadeshiko’s expense. However, thenEngland manager Hope Powell banned the celebration for fear it would single out Smith for extra attention from defenders.
The best goalscorer in the land
When Smith scored the second goal against Switzerland in the 2011 Women’s World Cup play-off she surpassed Karen Walker’s tally of 40 international goals to become the England Women’s all-time leading goalscorer. Her tally of 46 is a record that she still maintains, and is comfortably clear of any current squad members.
The first Stateside
Smith enjoyed several productive spells in the United States firstly playing in the college system, before featuring in the ground-breaking WUSA, and then the WPS. Indeed, Smith was the first English player to feature in America’s professional leagues, in a storyline loosely resembling that from feature film 'Bend it Like Beckham'. Playing professionally had long been a stated ambition for Smith.
North London pride
Smith’s career in England was intertwined with Arsenal, as the Gunners created arguably the most successful dynasty of any club in the nation’s women’s football history. Smith, who will continue to play for the club despite her international retirement, has netted over a century of goals and won over a dozen trophies for the Gunners.
photos Janos Schmidt