Shane Smeltz - a Glorious chapter in a stellar career

Shane Smeltz had scored 47 goals in three-and-a-half Hyundai A-League seasons when he arrived at Glory ahead of the 2011-12 campaign, so it’s fair to say that there was plenty of expectation placed upon his shoulders by the Glory faithful right from the get-go.

The WA side had been the lowest scorers in the entire competition the previous year, having found the net just 27 times in 30 games, hence the decision to pull out all the stops and secure the services of a man who seemed to guarantee goals.

Not that such pressure ever seemed to affect the laid-back character with the old-school mullet.

He didn’t manage to score on debut, as another new recruit, Billy Mehmet, bagged the winner against Adelaide, but he was off and running in Round 2 with a brace in a 2-1 win at Melbourne Heart.

The following week, he claimed the only goal of the game against his former club, Wellington Phoenix and once Glory recovered from a pre-Christmas slump, the All Whites star ran riot.

With Mehmet often operating as the ideal foil, Travis Dodd and Andrezinho providing quality service from wide areas and Steven McGarry surging forward to join the attack from midfield, Smeltz was in his element.

Having scored twice against Victory in Round 16, he destroyed them again in Round 25 by claiming all four in a remarkable 4-2 rout at nib Stadium.

Shane Smeltz, Josh Risdon and Billy Mehmet

 

A week later he was terrorising Victorian opposition once again, this time netting a hat-trick as Heart were swatted aside in the first round of the finals.

He was also on target in the Preliminary Final as Glory edged past the Mariners in a shoot-out, but unfortunately it was his bravery rather than his talent for finding the net that came to the fore during the subsequent Grand Final.

A sickening clash with Roar skipper Matt Smith early in the contest left him with a huge gash under his nose that would eventually require 50 stitches and reconstructive plastic surgery and yet the Kiwi battled on, determined to play his part in the club’s biggest ever A-League game.

Shane Smeltz - Grand Final

 

Alas, he was unable to add to his season tally of 17 goals, but the Smith incident spoke volumes about his determination, a quality he had already demonstrated by bouncing back from a tough spell in England’s lower divisions during which he seriously considered pulling the plug on his fledgling pro career.

And yet Smeltz was never one of those strikers who would catch the eye with tireless tracking back or harrying of defenders.

Indeed, he was a player who could be almost completely anonymous for long periods of a game.

But when the ball went into the box, he came alive.

This was a man who could score every kind of goal, from towering headers and composed one-on-one finishes, to the scruffiest of tap-ins. And he celebrated each and every one with the same unabashed glee.

Shane Smeltz - pistol celebration

 

92 goals was his final A-League total, one which places him second only to Besart Berisha on the all-time list and one place above his old rival, Archie Thompson.

And, of course, there was his international career that featured a further 24 senior goals, the most famous of which came against Italy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

After 18 years, the prolific frontman has announced his retirement and quite rightly, has been receiving plaudits from all around the world.

His like are a rare breed indeed and we were fortunate to see the best of him during the first of his three seasons with Glory.

The game will miss him and as he told the New Zealand Herald, the feeling is very much mutual.

“If there’s one feeling in football that I'll miss, it’s hitting the back of the net and that feeling of being on top of the world,” he said.

“It's a sensation you can’t beat. Whether it’s the lower leagues of England or against Italy at the World Cup, it’s the most amazing feeling.”

Thanks for the memories, Shane.

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