Kelly Smith posed for photos next to Arsene Wenger at Arsenal’s annual photocall last Thursday. The most recognisable face in the women’s game stood next to the longest-serving manager in English football.
There's no doubt Smith would have taken inspiration from the Frenchman in her recent role as Arsenal Ladies' caretaker manager. Under her guidance the Gunners have climbed the Women’s Super League and reached the Continental Cup final, four months after Wenger’s men lifted the FA Cup.
But, at 35, Smith still has plenty to give as a player. She watched from the sidelines for 73 minutes as Arsenal struggled to break down Notts County in the semi-final until she brought herself on and secured the win with an assist and a goal.
"In the earlier part of the season we were struggling with cohesiveness as a team but we’re there now"
“I was supposed to be on the bench against Chelsea [the previous week] but I was ill before,” Smith revealed after the game. “But I felt better [against Notts County] and had recovered from my illness. Frans [de Kat, Under-18 coach] and I discussed it and it was probably good for me to get about 30 minutes but it turned out to be more because of extra-time.
“It’s pleasing, though, because I’ve had an injury the last few weeks so I’ve been trying to manage that but I’m good to go now.”
Pedro Martinez Losa’s arrival means Smith can focus on leading by example on the pitch but also continue the player-coaching role given to her by former manager Shelley Kerr.
“[Pedro's] come in and will assess the players to see which sort of players he wants,” Smith explained. “He’s going to try and get us going and get us to finish as high as possible.
“It will be good for us to work with him for the back part of the season because then we know what he’s going to be like coming into pre-season, so we just wanted to meet him and get our heads down working hard.”
Losa’s first game in charge is against Bristol Academy and Smith will be looking for revenge after she was withdrawn through injury at half-time when Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by them in May.
“We’ve moved on from that and we’re a better side now than we were back then," she said. "In the earlier part of the season we were struggling with cohesiveness as a team but we’re there now so I believe we’re going to put in a better performance and hopefully get three points away from home.”
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