Lee Smith wants Histon to make an impact in Isthmian League, North Division
Lee Smith is primed and ready to roll for Histon’s new season.
The 30-year-old midfielder is about to enter his seventh season across three spells, albeit with the second being only a brief stop, and feels in better shape than ever.
And that can only be good news as the Stutes prepare to start life at Step 4 for the first time in three seasons, in the new environment of the BetVictor Isthmian League, North Division.
“The last two seasons I’ve had niggles and injuries right at the start so it’s been a bit of a setback but this year I feel fitter than I have done for a long time,” said Smith.
“As I’ve got older, the things I never regarded as important, like eating, drinking and keeping fit, I’ve realised you do actually have to do to be the fittest you can possibly be.
“It’s what I’ve been doing – eating well, hydration and keeping fit over the off-season which I’ve not done before as much as I have this year.
“I think that’s the reason I haven’t got any injuries in pre-season because of that constant ticking over in the off-season. I’m really looking forward to it to be fair.”
Smith wants to see Histon maintain the momentum that saw them take the Thurlow Nunn League, Premier Division by storm, winning the title with five games to spare.
More of the same will be needed in the Isthmian League, which offers a different proposition to the Southern League, where Histon were previously placed last time they were at Step 4.
“I got promoted to this league in my first season with Bury Town as we went from the Ridgeons League to this league and we found it a lot more difficult than when I was in the Bostik Southern Premier League, with the Birmingham sides,” he said.
“It’s a lot more physical. The teams in the North London area are the same as us – they are all friends and close to each other and very similar to how we are as a team, so it’s going to be a difficult time.”
It is that band of brothers mentality that will be crucial for Histon.
When you watch the side, the bond and camaraderie that they have built under manager Lance Key, Smith’s stepdad, means that you are left with no doubt that they will do anything for each other on the pitch.
“At lower league level it makes a massive difference in my eyes because everyone is out for each other,” said Smith.
“We are not out to be individuals, it’s a team game and about getting that right group of players, which my dad has got. He has done really well in getting us all together in a team that really gels.”
It is the friendship group that kept Smith at Histon after their relegation to the Thurlow Nunn League in 2017.
He received offers from sides further up the pyramid but, alongside friends and family, wanted to give back to a club that gave him a chance.
“We had a core of players that included me, my brother (Evan Key) and my cousin (Max York),” said Smith.
“The three of us had a chat and wanted to stay together to help my dad out to get us back to where we should be playing.
“We wanted to stick together, and we had a conversation with various other players and decided to do it, stick together and be successful again – and the additions have helped out massively.
“My first spell here was my big move, from Bury to Histon. I think they paid a fee for me with add-ons so it was my big move to the Conference.
“In comparison, I’ve gone from playing at the highest I can possibly play to trying to get them back to that point.
“It’s two ends of the spectrum, but it’s nice. I want to help the team that gave me the opportunity when I was 20/21 to get back to where I was playing with them, at the end of the day.”
And, fittingly to that end, Smith has more than just playing it safe and mid-table security in mind in their first season in the Isthmian League.
Based on matches against Coggleshall Town two seasons ago, a 2-1 win, and Soham Town Rangers last year, a 2-0 victory, Smith has a theory.
“If I set my sights on how those two results went and the players and team we have now, I genuinely believe if we start the season well, given how the season ended last year, then a play-off push is in our sights,” he said.
“I think the lads will agree with it as well. With that momentum, you don’t want to go in and just settle for adjusting to the league because we have the players here now to be successful.”