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  • Dundee Legend: Barry Smith

    There are very few players in the modern age that can be describe as ‘Dundee Legends.’ We have collected an abundance of fan favourites throughout the years but in my time following the Dark Blues, none come close to reaching the levels that Barry Smith did for the club.

    Barry Martin Smith began his career with Celtic when he signed a S-form for the Glasgow club from Giffnock North AFC on the 21st June 1991. Due to a defensive crisis that the Glasgow team were having at that time, he would make his debut at the tender age of seventeen just a few months later in a 4-3 defeat against Falkirk.

    During his four-and-a-half-year-stay with Celtic, Smith would find himself as the captain of their reserve team throughout this period and would also make twenty first-team appearances.

    Barry Smith~2.jpgHis Celtic career would come to an end in December 1995 when he was part of the £600,000 deal that saw fan favourite Morten Weighorst head in the opposite direction, a move which the defender was more than open to.

    “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Celtic, but after being on he fringes at Parkhead, I came to Dundee to get regular first-team football,” said Smith as he prepared to turn out for Jim Duffy’s side.

    In what would be the first of many appearances for Dundee, his debut came in a 4-2 defeat against Dunfermline at Dens Park on the 9th December 1995 in what was a tough season for the Dee. The Dark Blues had found themselves 2-0 up but would eventually concede four goals and see Paul Tosh sent off. Despite playing as a full-back with the Parkhead club and also making his debut in that position for the Dee, Duffy would mainly play him at centre-back.

    Commenting on the switch, “Jim Duffy was the man responsible for that switch and it’s a role which I relish,” said Barry.

    Smith was signed after the Coca Cola League Cup Final but that trip to Hampden Park kept the doors at Dens Park from permanently shutting. The club also finished a lowly fifth place in the First Division but the defender would cement his place in the Dundee starting XI by turning out for all remaining twenty games of the league campaign.

    20160309_162526000_iOS.jpgDespite only being at Dens for a relatively short period of time, the following season witnessed Barry being named as the club captain after Neil Duffy was transferred to neighbours Dundee United for £200,000. Smith would hold the captain’s armband until the day he would leave the club.

    After narrowly missing out on a play-off place in his first full season as player and captain, Smith won the Player of the Year award and would then go on to better that in the 1997-98 campaign when he led Dundee to the First Division title, clinching the clubs place back in the top league.

    Smith recalled, “It was brilliant to win promotion. That was what we aimed to do at the start of the season and to achieve it was so many games to go was different class.

    “The First Division winner’s medal was also my first major honour after winning three Reserve League titles and three Reserve League Cup winners medals whilst I was with Celtic.”

    For the 1998-99 season, Dundee would finish fifth In their first season back in the Premier League since 1994, their highest finish since 1974-1975. Smith made 35 appearances, only missing three games and he was rewarded with a new three-year deal by Jocky Scott to keep him at the club until 2003.

    The following season saw Dundee finish seventh but it would not be enough to see Scott given a new contract and a new management team of Ivan and Dario Bonetti were brought in and who in turn, flooded Dens with foreign signings. Many homegrown talents were moved on with not much hope given to the ones who remained but despite this, Steven Tweed, Gavin Rae and Barry Smith found themselves integral parts of the first team.

    Under Bonetti, Smith found himself deployed at full-back but most importantly, he also found himself remaining as club captain despite the presence of Georgian International captain Georgi Nemsadze playing in the same team.651594198-612x612.jpg

    “I’ve never been much of a talker on the park and besides, football is an international language,” Smith remarked.

    “In any event ideally, every team should have eleven captains with everyone taking responsibility for their own job. I’d like to think that I lead by example by always going out and giving 100% on the pitch.”

    Smith was ever present in the multi-national team that now occupied the Dens Park pitch and, in the summer of 2001, penned another three-year deal. The dependable captain had only missed two matches all season and in 2001-2002, he played in every single match.

    It was in that season that Smith made his 200 appearance for Dundee, missing just nine games in total since his transfer in 1995. This landmark came on September 29th 2001 but unfortunately this occasion wouldn’t have a happy ending as Aberdeen ran out 4-1 winners.

    The Bonettis’ two-year reign would come to a halt when it was ‘mutually agreed’ that their contracts would be terminated and, in their place, would be the man who had initially brought Barry Smith to Dens just under eight years beforehand, Jim Duffy.

    This meant another position change for the skipper and he found himself in a three-man midfielder consisting of himself, Gavin Rae and Giorgi Nemsadze. A new look Dundee side including Lee Wilkie, who had been brought back in from the wilderness, Jonay Hernandez, Nacho Novo and Steve Lovell seen an upturn in fortunes as the team. The Dee ventured on a nine-match unbeaten run in the league which resulted in a top six finish but in between all of that, victories over Aberdeen, Falkirk and Inverness Caley Thistle had placed the club in it’s first Scottish Cup Final appearance since 1964.

    Barry Smith would proudly lead out the team on 31st May 2003 and after just four minutes, his 25-yard strike beat Stefan Klos in the Rangers goal but would be denied by the post. It would not be our day with Rangers winning the cup 1-0. The Dee would however, with Smith at the helm, would be involved in European action since the first time since 1974.

    681201636-612x612.jpgThe European adventure was short and memorable but disastrous news was on its way when the club plunged into administration and the squad suffered huge redundancies. Smith was one of the lucky ones to be kept and with survival on and off the park a necessity, the captain led by example and rallied the team to a seventh-place finish, even taking a massive wage cut to help the club.

    Our luck would run out the season after. We went into the last game of the season against Livingston knowing a win would guarantee our safety. Smith highlighted the importance of this match when he was interviewed by the press: “I’ve played in Europe, a Cup Final and in hundreds of league games but this one is the biggest of the lot. There have been many highs and lows over the past 10 years and we’re now in the situation where a win this weekend would be a massive high because of what survival means to the club.”

    On the day though, we could only produce a point and were relegated to the First Division.

    2005 would be Smith’s testimonial year for the club but because of relegation from the top-flight, he took another pay cut as Dundee still struggled off-field. The whole season was a disappointment with only a Scottish Cup Semi Final appearance proving to be a high point and the last two games of the season, he was appointed caretaker manager along with Bobby Mann following the sacking of Alan Kernagahan.

    The thirty-two-year old’s last ever game for Dundee was to come on the last game of the season in a 3-1 victory at Queen of the South. It was his 433rd appearance for Dundee spanning a decade, only bettered by Doug Cowie and Bobby Cox in the most appearances column for Dundee.

    With a one-year contract on the table, Smith decided it was time to move on and signed on for two years with Icelandic club Valur. He left Dens with a heavy heart but couldn’t turn down the chance to sample football abroad.

    “I’m sad to go but it’s a chance to go abroad which I simply could not pass up at this stage of my career,” proclaimed the outgoing captain.

    While across in Iceland, Barry helped Valur to the Premier Division title in 2007 and played in the first tie of their UEFA Champions League Qualifying match against BATE Borisov. During the Icelandic close season in January, he returned to Scotland with loan spells with Partick Thistle (2007) and Morton (2008) before returning home to Dens Park to become the U19s coach in November 2008.

    During this time, he was loaned out to local side Brechin City who played part-time so this enabled him to carry on his coaching duties with the Dee but just like 2003, more catastrophe was on the horizon and Smith would be asked to guide the club through more dark times.

    681317312-612x612.jpgFor the second time the club would suffer the indignity of plunging into administration. The management team of Gordon Chisholm and Billy Dodds would lose their jobs and Barry Smith would be asked to take over the managers role on a caretaking basis with Robert Douglas and Matt Lockwood beside him.

    With the club being given just a 50/50 chance of making it past Christmas and suffering a massive and unprecedented twenty-five point deduction, our modern day ‘Mr Dundee’ overcame all the obstacles in front of him as the club not only survived relegation to the Second Division, but finished comfortably in midtable.

    With a trimmed back squad, Barry would have to rely on what first team players that were left playing through the pain barrier, youth players stepping up to contribute to the cause and asking for players to play as trialists for three matches with the sole aim of keeping the alive. He succeeded in doing so and along the way, the term ‘Deefiant season’ was penned as this team went on an amazing club record twenty-three match unbeaten run.

    Smith spoke about this time a few years later for The Evening Telegraph when he said: “I do believe if the team hadn’t stayed up someone would have shut the doors at Dens.

    “Collectively everyone responded, the coaching staff, office staff, players and definitely the fans rallied around the club. Though it was a really negative time, we turned it into a positive one which then led to promotion the following year.”

    “I don’t like to single anybody out but Robert Douglas played a massive part.

    “It’s difficult to say just how much he helped gelling the players together. All the players and their wives and families were invited round to his all the time and that really generated the team spirit.

    “He really made sure the team was a real team and that’s not even talking about what he did on the park.”

    His reward that summer was to made the permeant manager on a three-year deal and would lead the club to second place the following season. Even though there was only the one automatic promotion place for finishing first up for grabs at this point, Dundee would be catapulted into the top-flight following the liquidation of Glasgow Rangers. The whole timing of the events left Smith with next to no time to adjust for this after initially preparing a team that would potentially win the First Division.

    Dundee were always doomed to fail that season with their unlikely promotion only a few days before the kick-off to the campaign but the Dundee board sought to try and salvage their Premiership status by sacking Smith when most fans would have kept him in the manager’s position for another season, giving him fair crack of the whip.

    Nonetheless, the removal of Barry from the manager’s office brought an end to over twelve years of association for one of our all-time great servants.

    Reading about his time with the club, it’s very rare to see someone show the level of commitment and loyalty to any club as Smith did with Dundee, especially since he grew up in Paisley and had no prior affiliation with the Dee.

    Barry Smith was inducted into the Dundee Hall of Fame in 2009. The list of greats who will forever be etched in our history will consist of names such as Cox, Scott, Gilzean and Barry Smith tae.

    Appearances: 433
    Goal: 4

    Honours at Dundee
    Scottish League First Division winner: 1997/98
    Scottish Cup Runners-Up: 2003
    Player of the Year: 1996/97

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    • By TheDarkBlues
      Smith combined his playing duties while on loan at Brechin City with managing the Dundee U-19 side before taking on the role of first team manager following the departure of previous manager Gordon Chisholm who was made redundant when the club went into administration in October 2010. Already admitted into Dundee's Hall of Fame for making 400 appearances, scoring three goals and captaining the side from 1997 until 2006, Smith's status as a club legend was cemented when he led the team to a club record 23-game unbeaten streak in the league.

      Smith began his career with Scottish Premier League side Celtic. He made his debut aged 17 and played 22 games, including two Old Firm matches, between 1991 and 1995.

      Smith never gained a regular place at Celtic Park and joined fellow Scottish side Dundee in August 1995. He quickly established himself in the team at right-back and was made club captain in 1997, the same year Dundee achieved promotion to the Premier Division. After playing with the Dens Park side for ten-and-a-half seasons, Smith reached his testimonial year. He also took on the role of joint caretaker manager (with Bobby Mann) for the final two games of the 2005-2006 season following the dismissal of Alan Kernaghan.

      At the end of the 2005-2006 season, Smith transferred to Icelandic outfit Valur, helping them to third place (in 2006) and winning (in 2007) the Icelandic Premier Division, their first championship in 20 years.

      During the Icelandic close season, Smith was loaned back to Scottish clubs. In January 2007, he joined Partick Thistle, making 18 appearances and scoring one goal, while in January 2008 he joined Greenock Morton, making 5 appearances until he underwent a cartilage operation which kept him out for the rest of the season.

      On 4 November 2008, Smith returned to Dundee as U19 coach, with his registration as a player following in January, whereupon he was loaned out to neighbours Brechin City, with the ability to be recalled at any time. Brechin City's status as a part-time team enabled Smith to continue in his role as U19 Coach at Dens Park.

      On 15 October 2010, Smith was appointed manager of Dundee. He succeeded Gordon Chisholm, who had been made redundant after the club entered administration. Smith led the team to a club record unbeaten league streak of 23 games, guiding Dundee to safety despite the team receiving a 25-point deduction for entering administration for the second time in seven years (confirmed after a 0-1 win away to Ross County). This was rewarded, on 10 May 2011, when Smith signed a new three-year deal at Dundee, contracting him as manager until the end of the 2013-14 season.

      Despite finishing second in the 2011-12 Scottish First Division, Dundee were admitted to the Scottish Premier League due to the liquidation of Rangers. Dundee struggled in the early part of the 2012-13 Scottish Premier League, winning three out of 22 matches. Despite this, the Dundee board restated their backing for Smith, citing the difficulty in adjusting to the SPL in unusual circumstances. However, just 47 days later, Smith and Dundee parted company. His sacking was criticised by St. Johnstone manager Steve Lomas, believing Smith deserved another chance.

      On 1 July 2013, Smith joined Ross County as the club's Under-20s coach. In January 2014, Smith was appointed manager of Scottish Championship club Alloa Athletic. He guided Alloa to the final of the 2014-15 Scottish Challenge Cup. Alloa defeated Rangers in the semi-final, with Smith noting the fact he had become the first Alloa manager to win a match against Rangers.
    • By TheDarkBlues
      Interview in The Herald yesterday, interesting read.
    • By TheDarkBlues
      Not only that, but Smith, who had been unfairly sacked by the club he captained for years, believed there was a chance he would have to cover and comment about current incumbent Paul Hartley getting the boot from Dens Park.
      What happened was this. Smith, 42, was out of football after leaving Aldershot Town in April 2015. He is not someone for whom an easy life was ever going to be an option and so he applied and got a job as a football journalist as Dundee’s Evening Telegraph.
      Plenty of former footballers and manager have worked on both sides of what at times feels like a great divide; however, usually these former players become columnists. Few down the years have ever lowered themselves to get their hands dirty in the nitty-gritty of the daily slog football hacks have to go through.
      That lasted a few months. He is now back in management at East Fife and while the pen has been hung up, he looks back on his brief time in the business with great fondness.
      “I have always liked a challenge,” Smith tells me in his final few days as a working journalist before concentrating full-time on East Fife. “It was a great experience and made me think of my days as a player when I could be a bit precocious about my dealing with the press lads.
      “It was really good for me. I have no regrets at all. I actually stayed on at school after signing on as a professional at Celtic so I do have qualifications. I learned there was to be a vacancy at the papers, applied for the job and got it.
      “Listen, I knew it was going to be very different but thought it would be good for me to see the other side of it. As with everything I’ve done, I gave my best and wanted to see if I was going to be any good at it.
      “I’m not the one to say if I was good or not but they kept me on. They didn’t kick me out at least.”
      Smith was treated appallingly by Dundee. He took over after the club had been placed into administration and were in what was then the First Division with a 25-point deduction. He led the team to safety, a 23 game unbeaten streak was the key, against every imaginable odds.
      The next season Dundee finished second but were not ready to go up and yet found themselves returned to the top tier in place of Rangers. The team struggled and Smith was sacked. It was a scandal.
      Fast forward a few years and Smith is back at Dens Park, only this time to speak to Hartley about a job he knew only too well.
      “I did find it awkward interviewing managers because I am a manager,” said Smith. “It’s not about looking for a story but you do need something to write about.
      “Paul was going through a hard time and I was never going to call for his head of have a real go. I have been there and, anyway, that’s not me. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not the kind of guy.
      “But in saying all of that, it was difficult to be positive when there wasn’t a lot of positivity around. It’s just that chanting for the head of a manager is tricky because it’s not something I would like to happen to me.”
      It’s always interesting to gauge what players think of the media once they are retired and come over to the dark side. It would be of great benefit for young footballers to get some proper training about the press, maybe even from the journalists, so they can learn a bit about how it all works.
      “Journalists have to ask difficult questions,” said Smith. “Certainly it has made me a lot more understanding about the job and why certain things are done. Manager have every right to protect their club but the journalists have a job to do.
      “I don’t think any question is asked out of badness. There does need to be a better understanding from football’s point of view. Nobody is out to get you now. There has to be some common ground."
      Smith is happy to be back on the side football he knows best. East Fife are a fine club and he seemed to be the only candidate once Gary Naysmith moved on to Queen of the South.
      “Gary gave a glowing report about me to the board,” revealed Smith. “I went for an interview, they asked me if I wanted it and that was that.
      “It’s a good club, a community club and well run at that. They won’t spend money they don’t have – good for me considering what happened before - and we have a great ground of players. It’s a small squad but I’ve been genuinely bowled over by their attitude and ability.”
      Smith has taken some kicks before but he was never going to knock back a job he fancied.
      “It is very hard to explain,” he said. “It is in you. You live and breathe football. I have pride and ambition. I still want to succeed in management. I know what can happen in the job but this is what I want to do."
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