Surgery scuppers Smith’s St George’s return
Wendell Smith’s return to St George’s in a coaching capacity has been put on hold while he recovers from knee replacement surgery two weeks ago.
Smith, who gained promotion with Western Stars before finishing fourth last season, was hoping to go back to St George’s to assist coach Ryan Steede.
However, the surgery, which he had initially hoped to undergo in October last year, will not allow him to take on the rigours of coaching this summer.
“I spoke to Ryan a couple of weeks ago and he had already been informed because I let [president] Neil Paynter know that I’ll be spending this spring and summer rehabilitating and recovering from the surgery, a serious surgery,” Smith said. “I won’t be available to do any coaching because I’ve got to take care of my health.
“Originally my surgery was due to be on October 5, with that in mind I would have had the fall and beginning of spring to recover. But it had to be put back.”
Smith stood down as Stars coach last season, with the intention of returning to help his boyhood club. “I met with Neil right after Cup Match and gave him a proposal, but that was all because I planned to have my surgery in October,” Smith explained.
“I ended up e-mailing Neil to let him know the surgery got postponed. It was supposed to be January, then early February before being pushed back to the end of February. I just had it done two weeks ago. I obviously have to do what’s best for my health and I’m sure they understood that.”
As a captain and coach of St George’s in the 1980s, Smith transformed the team into one of the island’s top sides, winning league and Camel Cup titles. They won that competition five times, including being the first team to win three straight titles from 1988 to 1990.
Smith coached St David’s to league success before taking over at Stars in 2015. This season he can concentrate on his other “job” as a cricket commentator. “I had taken a break in the early 2000s and then got coaxed to go to St David’s by Philip Pitcher and was down there for four years,” Smith recalled.
“The last six years I’ve been busy coaching so it will be a welcome break. It’s something that I thoroughly enjoy, you can make a big impact on players’ and team’s forms so I feel blessed in that respect, that I made a difference.”
Arnold Manders is likely to take over from Smith at Western Stars, a popular choice as he is a former Stars captain. Smith is confident he has left them in a good position, with talk circulating that former players Jacobi Robinson and cousins Jekon Edness and Tre Manders could head back to the club.
Manders, whose father Andre Manders grew up playing for Stars with his brothers, has been playing football for Dandy Town this season.
“Arnold is the one I was hoping would come to Stars to take my place,” Smith said of his former Cup Match team-mate who is also a former Bermuda coach. “Arnold’s got excellent credentials and has fantastic knowledge of the game. Plus he’s a Stars person and has a buy-in to the club which is a part of him.
“He will want to see Stars to do well, and may be fortunate to bring back a couple of players who I was hoping may come back last year, players like Jacobi, Jekon and Tre. It makes for a positive move for Stars.
“The day I told the players I was leaving was the day we beat St David’s, the first team to beat St David’s, just before I went away to England. We were in the changing room when I told them I had an announcement to make.
“With three weeks left in the season I felt I would rather tell them myself because I had already told Neil I wanted to go back to St George’s.
A couple of St George’s players — brothers Oronde and Onias Bascome — are rumoured to be considering a move to neighbours St David’s for the upcoming season while Lionel Cann, whose stint as Warwick Workmen’s Club coach has now ended, is contemplating a move to St George’s.