CHARLES Smith is aiming to make Newcastle Eagles history this weekend, but is not quite ready to be part of it yet.
Long-serving Smith has been part of the Eagles set-up since 2000 but it remains a bone of contention that he joined too late in the 2005/6 season to collect the plaudits of the clean sweep.
He gets the chance to right that wrong on Saturday when the Eagles – gunning for another clean sweep of the silverware – take on Leicester Riders at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
It would be the perfect end to a campaign that many thought would never happen. Veteran Smith was tipped to retire in the close season. But he surprised the BBL when he signed up for another year – partly motivated by a desire to bounce back from their barren season.
And in news that will delight Eagles fans, he says that whatever happens on Saturday he intends to play on and compete again next year.
“The priority is Saturday and getting the win that the club wants. I don’t really think too far ahead but my body feels good so I want to keep on playing,” he said.
“I haven’t talked to anyone here about next season yet. I’m sure they will get the people they want to get back and talk to them individually – I’ll just have to wait to hear from them.
“Newcastle would be a great place to play – it feels like home and has done on and off for 12 years. I’m comfortable here, I’ve got a house here and it would be great to continue here.” Smith’s stock is high enough in the Eagles camp to ensure that an offer will be forthcoming this summer but for some reason, the forward seems to attract his fair share of critics outside the club.
He answered them emphatically with a superb performance in the BBL Cup final against Plymouth and has continued to perform consistently for the rest of the campaign.
Although quietly spoken off the court, he has heard those critics – and draws a lot of motivation from proving them wrong.
“A lot of people wrote us off after last year especially with not winning anything and all the speculation about certain people not coming back,” he said.
“To be able to come back and accomplish what we have done so far is just unbelievable. To finish that off by winning another trophy would be really, really special and that is what I want to do now.
“This year there is a real team chemistry. The trip to Holland brought us really close and we’ve just been riding that high ever since. We’ve answered every single challenge.
“Everyone gets along together and on any given night anyone can step up. We’re not worried about who scores the most of who gets the most points.”
For Smith, there is extra motivation after he joined late in the last clean sweep season. He admits it was difficult to be on the outside looking in on the celebrations at the time – and sees Saturday’s Riders clash as a chance to finally lance that boil.
“I don’t count myself as part of the clean sweep last time – I didn’t win the Cup,” he said. “This will be first one and I’m very excited about the possibilities of it.
“I really hope we can get it done.”