Football's Master Doctor

Tuesday, 3rd December 2013


Ian Smith has been a perennial visitor to the Masters Football Tournament since inception and his big warm infectious smile shows he has lost none of his enthusiasm coming back to Barbados every year. The former Scottish professional footballer and qualified Doctor sings the praises for the organizers and claims he will keep returning even if he needs a walking stick!
Ian shares his love for Masters Football and Barbados…

What endears you to Barbados?

I spent two years in Barbados (1982-4) after qualifying as a Doctor and they were terrific years. Football has always been in my blood so inevitably I was drawn to Wanderers and the friends I met there are still good friends some 30 years later. It was great living on the island because the people are so friendly so I get a lot of satisfaction coming back as a tourist. I walk the beaches every day and just soak in the lovely warm weather and beautiful surrounds.

Do you still get the same buzz after all these years?

Of course! As soon as the Virgin Atlantic staff open the door of the plane and I stand at the top of the steps I taken in a huge gulp of hot air and know I’ve returned to Paradise. That feeling hasn’t waned in 30 years.

You have had a successful and colourful career. What have been the highlights?

Playing professionally for Birmingham City alongside Trevor Francis, the first £1,000,000 footballer in the English 1st Division, and Hearts in the Scottish 1st Division were the football highlights, but my football career came second to my medical career, as I had to balance my time between both. In later years I did this by playing semi-professional, which was also great.

Do you still keep in touch with the professional game?

My father was a professional footballer and I followed in his footsteps. I’m therefore delighted our son Matt has done the same and has eclipsed both Dad and Grandpa in the football world. Both my wife Francoise and myself are very proud of him. Many people will remember his goals against Liverpool and Everton in the FA Cup playing for Oldham Athletic in January and February last year and the three goals in three games in April to drag Oldham out of relegation and keep their Division One status and earn him April Budweiser Player of the Month. He’s now moved to Leeds United, a massive club with a massive fan base and massive Manager in Brian McDermott, so we have at least one big reason to stay in touch with the modern game.

What have you enjoyed most about the Masters Tournament?

I suppose the fact that the tournament is such a well-organized event is a huge factor because it keeps bringing me back year in, year out. Without that excellent organization I doubt that I would have returned so often. I know a lot of other participants feel the same way, which is why you have so many returning teams with largely the same players. Wanderers officials like Paul “Starsky” Wright, big Grant Trebble, John McGuire and the rest of their team are great organizers and when you add the wonderful people of Barbados and the colourful personalities of the other Caribbean islands these are the things that have made the tournament such as success.

Has it peaked or can it get better?

Most certainly! The biggest improvement I see would be accommodating the older veterans! There’s a big difference between a 40 year-old and a 60 year-old footballer so perhaps the time has come to have an Over-50 section, even if it is restricted to eight teams. It would make it more competitive at this age group and it is a wonderful way to keep the older guys involved. After all, they have supported the tournament down the years and we want to keep them returning. But they are competitive too, and this would level their playing field.

Will you be back next year?

I certainly will and with my walking stick if needed!

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