By the time his two-year deal is up, Gregg Smith will have dished out some serious ear-bashings, says Duncan Browne...
“I hope you’re not going to miss another cross and cost us the game again?” Gregg Smith shouted at Dion-Curtis Henry as he emerged from the tunnel, ready for his warm-up.
It was 6.30pm on September 6, little more than an hour before Boston United’s home match against Bradford Park Avenue.
Just three days earlier the Pilgrims were beaten 3-2 at home by FC United of Manchester, with the 18-year-old debutant admitting that his misjudgement had led to one of the Rebels’ winning goals.
“You going to help us out by scoring some goals?” was Henry’s reply.
“Too busy heading the ball out of your box for you,” sniffed Smith.
Beginning the evening by throwing abuse at a teenager preparing for just his second senior game may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect pre-match preparation.
But Smith - with his shaven head, tattooed forearms and confident, shoulder swinging strut - isn’t everyone. He comes from the school of tough love, certainly when football’s concerned.
As Boston United fans have seen since his summer arrival, he’s a leader - an all-or-nothing battler who expects everyone else show the same fierce determination out on the turf as he does.
If not, you’ll soon know about it, whether you are a friend or foe.
After getting caught out in his own penalty area for the equaliser at Stockport, Pilgrims skipper Liam Agnew could only stand there and take a public dressing down from his teammate, a display almost as ferocious as the one offered to Alfreton’s Craig Westcarr after he attempted to kick a divot into the penalty spot ahead of Boston’s equaliser last Tuesday.
There was more following Saturday’s FA Cup win at Kirby Muxloe.
Progressing 2-1 in the FA Cup may be welcome relief for some. But not Smith. Instead, he rounded up some teammates in the centre circle and told them the performance was ‘embarrassing’.
Yes, there was some real anger to his words on each of these occasions. But because he backs up his comments with his actions, Smith’s pep talks work.
Agnew hasn’t dithered since and - following that discussion with Henry - Boston beat Park Avenue 1-0... the keeper keeping a clean sheet and Smith, of course, scoring the winner.
Whether you appreciate those methods or not, there’s no doubting that they work.
And when the man wanting you to do as he says responds by scoring three goals in as many games as the team pick up seven points following their sluggish National League North start, who can argue?
There was little surprise when Dennis Greene announced that his target man had been offered a two-year-contract with the Pilgrims, signed on Thursday, a decision from the manager which seemed to bring in universal approval from the Pilgrims fans.
Smith has already joined the likes of Tony Crane and Paul Ellender in picking up instant cult hero status at York Street (The Beast and Big Gregg Smith seemingly the only two ways you’ll hear him described on the terraces). Two years down the line, when that deal is up for renewal, you’d think he could well be an all-time fan favourite.
The only hope is that those young players around him continue to learn fast - for their own sakes as much as anything.