Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Denis Is a Cracking Bloke, but He Wasn't Going to Let Wicksy Get Past Him

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Denis Is a Cracking Bloke, but He Wasn't Going to Let Wicksy Get Past Him

Article excerpt

HE MAY have been manager of Sunderland, which to a Geordie means fraternising with the enemy, but Denis Smith was first and foremost a football man.

Denis was a bloke's bloke, a onetime centre-half who ate timid forwards for breakfast washed down with a pint of paint stripper.

Anyway, he was just passing through at Sunderland on a long and meandering career path.

I got to know a lot of Roker managers through the Hennessy lunches involving the North East's big three clubs, which we used to put on at a restaurant in Jesmond Dene which lasted until the fading light gave out.

Some, I stress some, became good pals.

Like Smithy, Peter Reid who had a great repartee with United fans, Malcolm Crosby who did a bit of coaching for me at Gateshead, and Viv Busby who first became a social buddy when on loan at Newcastle during the infamous Hereford period.

Two red-and-white players also entered the Gibbo inner circle through talk-ins I used to chair across our area featuring both a Newcastle and Sunderland star. The best from Mackemland were Marco Gabbiadini, Don Goodman and Kevin Ball. They took the baiting of a Geordie (me) in good spirit.

Anyway, back to Denis Smith who made his hardman reputation in the red-and-white stripes not of Sunderland but Stoke City, though he always stressed to me he missed the FA Cup tie when Blyth Spartans went down to the Victoria Ground and gave them a walloping.

Buzzer (Viv Busby) did not, he played. Come to think of it, he had a terrible record in the infamous giantkilling matches of the day - not only was he in the Stoke side which lost to the Spartans but he did of course play for Newcastle when they were sensationally put out by another nonleague side Hereford United.

Smithy, like Reidie, strutted in his image of a man who stood no nonsense and I remember him playing in a charity match at Gateshead's International Stadium.

A bunch of celebs, many from Coronation Street and EastEnders, were pitted against a side of ex-players of which Denis was the centre-half.

The real heartthrob of the time was Nick Berry. Remember him? He was Simon Wicks in EastEnders, a fella who could send female hearts fluttering from 50 paces especially after releasing a No 1 single Every Loser Wins. …

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