AFC MN Smith
|Full name||AFC MN Smith|
|Nickname(s)||The Smith, The Smudgers|
|Founded||Prior to CMSC XV|
|Dissolved||Following CMSC XXXIX|
|Ground||City of Bove Stadium|
|Former Chairman||Alistair Purnell|
|Former Director of Football||Denis Martin|
|Former Manager||Will Medlin|
AFC MN Smith is a registered charitable organisation and former professional football club based in Bove, Candelaria And Marquez, which played in the CMSC. Part of the CMSC1 since the XXVI season, MN Smith were perennial relegation candidates who staved off such a fate until the XXXVII season. They were promoted the following year, giving them a record of thirteen out of fifteen top-flight seasons during the International Era.
With their best CMSC1 performances being three eighth-place finishes, the Smudgers’ finest achievement saw them winning the Series B Champions Cup during the second half of their second promotion season. The club, arguably best known in their early CMSC1 years for their bitterly divided fan base and boardroom, did however become well-respected for a youth academy that produced numerous players who would excel for wealthier clubs and their country, among them Eric O’Brien of Marquez-Onwere, Niv Cohen of Albrecht Turkish and Danny Adams of Turkish and several Cafundelense clubs.
Unlike many top-flight Candelariasian teams the Smith remained domestically owned to the last and their playing staff never took on a specifically foreign character, though the club did maintain a close relationship with Wow! Health & Fitness FC of Quintessence of Dust. The club also developed a modest international Jewish following, reflecting the presence of a large proportion of C&M’s Jewish population in Bove.
Following the collapse of Candelariasian football, MN Smith’s focus was redirected into charitable efforts aimed at supporting urban youths. As of November 2020 this organisation was under investigation for serious financial mismanagement.
Having been part of the CMSC1 since the XXVI season, MN Smith were one of the most recently established teams in the first division. The club was formed prior to the CMSC XV season, with the intention of becoming the first club from Bove, the third-most populous city in Candelaria, to make a major impact for decades and eventually become a notable part of the country’s footballing vista. The team was named in honour of Matthew (Noah) Smith, a former striker with Albrecht FC and the Allemali Mariners who spent the remainder of his life coaching Bove children and turning the previously sports-sceptic city into a somewhat unlikely factory for footballing talent.
Following Smith’s death, the new club (given the ‘AFC’ prefix as was the fashion at the time, though the acronym does not, strictly speaking, refer to anything in particular) began a steady rise from semi-professionalism until achieving promotion under manager Derek Marshall – a protégé of Smith’s; while several other players who had benefited from his tutelage were also in that debut CMSC1 squad.
Since then, the Smudgers would string together consistent mid-table finishes, despite regular predictions of their imminent relegation prior to almost every season. They would twice qualify for the Globe Cup the past, beating the Orthopedists of the Landau Institute 4-0 on their first international appearance and making the group stage of Globe Cup 3 – failing to progress any further despite a memorable 3-0 beating of Vephrese giants Poikimitagiin FE.
The club are best known however for the divided nature of their fan base. At the time of their creation, All Saints FC – former NFBL winners from the Bove district of Southampton, who had since fallen into semi-professionalism and financial difficulty – were still managing average gates large enough to keep them afloat, but the establishment of a rapidly developing second force in the city ‘stole’ many hundreds of floating supporters and even All Saints die-hards. The older club soon folded, creating significant animosity between the two sets of supporters – a situation worsened when a solid core of All Saints regulars became MN Smith season ticket holders and began to attend games at the City of Bove Stadium, booing the home players and directing abuse at the MN Smith supporters they occasionally even outnumbered.
On several occasions over the following few years, the team were forced to play behind closed doors following crowd trouble inside and outside the stadium. The complete collapse of the club was feared when Alistair Parnell, an All Saints loyalist with the stated ambition of bringing the club down from the inside, was stunningly elected President. Parnell later publicly reversed his stance and claimed that conciliation was needed following Marshall’s departure as manager, but was still able to come to blows with his reluctant deputy, Lincoln Kjellin, in a violent exchange on the edge of the technical area, in front of the nation’s TV cameras.
Kjellin later served prison time, while Parnell remained President and slowly began to win over the trust of a large portion of the supporters. With the establishment of The New Saints, those former All Saints fans that remain as regular visitors to the City of Bove Stadium typically now do so as loyal supporters, though they maintained their own sections of the ground and general distance from the rest of the fans.
The following seasons saw mid-table mediocrity reign, with manager Darwin Rondags sacked during XXXIII, shortly after the end of the World Cup break – with many supporters loyal to their former, home-grown right-back accusing Parnell of harbouring delusions of grandeur following a C&M World Cup victory inspired by MN Smith product Cohen. In his place, the chairman brought in former Port of Clotaire boss James Hannah – a controversial appointment, with many fans unhappy to see an outside figure with few obvious connections to Bove football being handed the job – but Hannah soon dragged the team comfortably away from their earlier flirtations with relegation and finish twelve points outside the drop zone.
Hannah’s first full season, following a transfer window in which he was forced to pick up CMSC2 players and cut-price Nethertopians to make up the numbers, proved to be completely typical in its typicality, with the team seldom budging from their eventual tenth-place finish – a performance that could once again be considered easily adequate fare for arguably the least well-healed club in the division. For the second season in a row, the star man – on and off-field – proved to be Quintessian midfielder Peter Rogers; by far the biggest bonus of the club’s nascent relationship with Quodite football.
XXXV saw the club suffer an all but inevitable downturn, following the key loss of another home-grown star – centre-half Chris Stewart. With Rogers’ performances dropping off considerable and the strike partnership of Arnold Postman, the Nethertopian international, and Luke Lewis misfiring woefully, MN Smith’s Apertura saw them win just twice, sit second from bottom, and a long-awaited relegation appeared odds on.
The board reacted by sacking Hannah and promoting from within – with former centre-half Will Medlin moved up from his role with the academy on a temporary basis. With the new caretaker lacking real managerial experience, many assumed that the Smudgers were preparing for life in the CMSC2 with this appointment rather than concentrating on the short-term survival of the club’s top-flight status – a suspicion all but confirmed by Parnell in the weeks following the Clausura’s close – but it proved an inspired choice. The qualities of the Smith’s football and the players’ understanding of their on-field roles improved markedly, while Medlin rapidly integrated a number of his former charges from the club’s youth system, including the seventeen year-old striker Alex Budden and highly-rated centre-half Leon Tiller. Despite losing their first two matches under their new management, the Smith soon embarked on a remarkable run of drawn games – five in a row, with points gained against most of the league title contenders – before winning three in a row against their fellow relegation contenders to heave themselves up the final table to safety by six points.
Putting the Vanorian Loren Meyer, in her final season for the club, to one side; MN Smith had the CMSC1’s youngest team in XXXVI – Budden and Tiller joined by full-back Josh Nykvist, holding midfielder Jamie Small and, in later weeks, Tiller’s highly talented midfield tyro of a brother, Daniel. It proved to be a year that encapsulated the Smith in a nutshell – able to cling onto their kids but spend little else on even CMSC2 mainstays, but clinging defiantly onto their top-flight status.
They remained in the bottom three throughout much of the season, but remained comfortable ahead of their rivals in the betting to avoid the drop, reflecting a widespread conviction that the club were simply un-relegateable, regardless of the make-up of the squad – Bove Rabbi David Liss going as far as to extol them as a club protected by God and urging more of the city’s Jewish community to flood to the City of Bove Stadium come XXXVII. This did at least have the effect of momentarily uniting the two major factions at the CoBS with a bit of goodnatured anti-Semitism; while the Jewish community itself, resolutely The New Saints fans to the last, politely told the good Rabbi to shove it. MN Smith survived XXXVI by five points.
CMSC XXXVII opened with a 2-1 defeat at Ironside-Talinger, the closest thing the Smith had to true rivals, and a mass brawl; Leon Tiller ultimately seeing red for stroking Muhammad Fairhope’s cheeks (although this incident was probably unrelated, and prompted an extensive war of words between the Association of Muslim Professional Sportsmen and the Muslim Gay & Lesbian Alliance). Morale was raised on MD6 after a pulsating 3-3 draw with Albrecht Turkish, a club the Smudgers were forever motivated to excel against having lost so many players to the capital giants over the years, but they finished the Apertura only five points outside the relegation zone. They would win only three more games all season and succumbed to the drop for the first time.
The club inevitably lost most of their better players following relegation, but under Medlin once more their academy came through for them once again with talented teenagers Harry Vine and Jenny Simpson controlling the midfield in support of dedicated new home town hero Budden. Ignoring bids from top-flight clubs, Budden’s thirty league goals propelled them to promotion whilst proving a cut above in the SBCC. In Mar Sara, Valanora, the Smith beat Capitalizt side Sonoma City Volcanoes 3-0, with goals from Vine, Budden and teen Salvatore Bocchetti.
The MN Smith squad for what would prove the final season to date of professional football in the Candelarias remained built around these players, with the addition of a trio of internationals from Andossa Se Mitrin Vega. While their second tilt at the SBCC ended early at Krytenian hands, and the second half of their season disappointing, they finished the highly competitive XXXIX season three points from safety in thirteenth place. With another eighteen league goals, Alex Budden might well have fired himself to international stardom, had his career not joined those of most of his countrymen in coming to a sudden close.
MN Smith retained the core of their playing staff for some months until it was apparent that the CMSC would not resume for its XL season. Several past and present players and coaches remained attached to the club as it transitioned to charitable status, aiming to stem the downturn in the mental health of the country’s youths and provide guidance away from the vices of the modern world. A decade later Purnell’s successor as chairman, former youth team player Cameron Robinson, would be investigated for gross financial mismanagement. The case remains ongoing.
The City of Bove Stadium was one of the first arenas built during the modern age of stadium building in C&M, and like so many others to come was designed by Kura-Pellandi firm ShinyPlaces. At 20,568 seats and with an overall design not conducive to great atmospherics, it is not considered one of the country’s major stadia and has seldom been used for notable events since professional football’s collapse.
The ground’s major point of interest is the use of CorGlass, a roofing material devised by GCGP (Grayton City Glass & Plastics), around the entirety of the seating and leaving none of it open to the elements. The Main Stand accounts for almost half the overall capacity, with the rest of the stadium consisting of a single-tier horseshoe linking one sideline and each goal.
Supporters’ Players of the Season
Notable CMSC1 International Era players