…Coast United. It’s not about the money. And I’m not bitter. And I genuinely mean that, it was just too good a pun to resist. But yes, Phoenix fans, the news we all dreaded has come through, Smeltz will not be at the Ring of Fire next season, we will be without our only consistent goal threat, and so the work to replace him must start now. But the reaction of some fans to his decision has been a bit out of line in my opinion.
I must admit that initially I, like many fans, was bitter that Shane had decided to leave us for Gold Coast United, and almost was taken in by the suggestion that he should be left to rot on the bench for the rest of the season. Some fans suggested that he has gone purely for the money, and others criticised his disloyalty, as there is no doubt that Ricki Herbert and the Phoenix have resurrected a career that was previously floundering in the English non-league.
But to be honest, once I put a bit of though into it, I realised that this was all a bit childish really. Yes, Shane does owe a lot to the Phoenix and we are upset to see him go. Many fans suggest that he could have gone, but if he was to go, he should at least have gone only to a better league, a better standard of football, a better chance of success and recognition, none of which apply to Gold Coast United (though they are threatening to build a very strong squad, so may outstrip Wellington’s success).
At the end of the day though, I think we should in fact praise Shane for moving to the Gold Coast, because he is doing what is best for his family. And while it is very easy to get all caught up in football and see him as just a player, we have to try and remember that Smeltz, like the rest of us, is a normal human being, and wants to do the best for the ones that he loves. It would have been easy for him to stay in Wellington on the nice contract he was offered (I genuine mean it, it’s not about the money), in a team where he’s the star and where he knows he will be idolised.
But he has chosen to take his family home. He will go to another new club, a club with lots of spending power and thirst for success and will have to prove himself all over again. He will leave his friends in the Phoenix squad, and have to learn to play and get along with new players, and hope that he can score goals there. And I for one, don’t think he will be such a success on the Gold Coast. Because while his record here is undeniably great, he shines so bright because he is surrounded by so much darkness. And so in terms of his career, this could turn out to be a step backwards.
And I’m sure Shane realises this. He has said how much he enjoys his life here and how happy he is, which filled us all with the hope that he would stay. But at the end of the day, it seems that the Gold Coast is the best place for his family and so Shane has taken the difficult decision to relocate. And he should be applauded for this, because family comes first. I think that Shane is a genuinely good bloke, who really loves his time here, and will be sad to leave. And because of that, I think some of the accusations being levelled at him are terrible.
Some have accused him of lying to the club, of leading them (and the fans) on, by saying that he hadn’t made up his mind and that he wanted the speculation to be left to the end of the season. And yes, it would have been good to see the season through and then have him decide, so that he doesn’t have to play with the fans on his back, but realistically, it couldn’t happen. Gold Coast are in the process of building their squad, and they need commitment and definite answers. They could not let Shane think about it until the season ends then turn them down and leave them in the shit. And likewise, Shane didn’t want to miss this opportunioty to do the right thing by dallying and finding that they’d signed someone else instead, In an ideal world, yes, it would all have happened at the end of the season, but in the real world, it was always going to happen this way, and we should accept that.
And because of that, there is the awkward situation of us essentially having a Gold Coast player playing in the Phoenix shirt for the rest of the season. But that is no reason not to play him, and it is certainly no reason to boo him (shame on you if you even consider it). Shane, perhaps more than any other player in the club’s brief existence, has given his all for the Phoenix, and he has endeared himself to the Yellow Fever because of it. That is why we are so bitter to seem him go, but also why he should be treated with respect and admiration for the rest of his time here, and to leave such a potent striker on the bench when we can;t scoe as it is would just be plain idiotic.
So, in all, I hope we all get behind Shane for the rest of the season. Yes, it’s terrible that he’s leaving and I can’t even begin to think how we’ll replace him, but we cannot blame him for doing what is right for his family. In the same situation, we would all do what we think is right for our families too, so we have to remember that Smeltz, like the rest of us, has more to his life than football, even if it doesn’t seem like that at times. So thanks Shane, you’ve lit up what have otherwise been some relatively drab seasons at this club, and I wish you all the happiness with your move and the best of luck with your new club.
Just don’t score against us or I really will be bitter…