TOMORROW promises to be an emotional day for former Stanley defender Jonathan Smith as he officially says good-bye to the Interlink.
The 29-year-old Accrington-born player, who has spent six seasons at Stanley, will say a fond farewell to the Reds in his testimonial game against his new club Barrow (ko 3pm).
He will play the first half for Stanley - the team he has been with as they have risen from the UniBond First Division to the Nationwide Conference - and the second half for the Conference North promotion hopefuls.
And the mascot will be his two-year-old daughter Holly with family and friends watching from the sidelines.
"It will be emotional. It is like a final good-bye to Accrington," said Smith.
"But I have had so many good memories and I look back over my years with Accrington with a lot of pride. I have seen so many changes with the club and been part of their rise up the leagues and I am grateful I have had the opportunity to be part of that.
"One of my best memories of the early years is winning the UniBond First Division. I remember John (Coleman) had got in some big name players, like Mark Shirley, and we were expected to win the title.
"We didn't have the best of starts and then we went on that run from Christmas to the end of the season where we were unbeaten. We secured the top spot, got promotion and there was so much excitement around the club. That was an unbelievable season.
"I remember at the start the crowds were 300 but, for the final game which we had to win, there was 3,600 - it was something else. There was also winning the three trophies in one year and winning the UniBond Premier Division.
"I am proud to have been involved in all of this and, apart from family things, they have given me some of the happiest times of my life."
Smith has always been a firm favourite with the crowd being a local lad who came from Great Harwood Town to the club in June 1999.
"I think the fans always liked me because I was local. There was always the tag "Mr Accrington Stanley."
"But I would also like to think it was because, although I have never had the greatest ability, I always gave 100 per cent and tried my best. And, because I worked locally and saw people in the streets, I think I had a good relationship with the fans."
As well as all the good memories, one of the most humorous for Smith - despite the pain - involved a big moment in Stanley's history.
They were going for the UniBond Premier title and were playing two games in one weekend against Droylsden and Whitby.
"We were playing Droylsden on the Saturday and I took a whack to my face. I had a broken nose, a fractured cheekbone and the referee had my teeth in his pocket! There was blood all over but they let me play on - I wanted to because it was a crucial game - but I was very drowsy and took another knock.
"I remember I was in the changing room after, all light-headed and out of it, and Donna, my wife, came in and she was eight months pregnant with Holly. Because I was so confused with the knocks, I just looked at her, pointed at her stomach and said: "When did that happen?" Everyone laughed but I think, I lost four days to that injury!"
The central defender has been a major part of the Reds growth and went full-time with Stanley last season as they made the huge step up to the professional ranks but insists he has no regrets despite just having one season as a full-time footballer.
He has returned to his job part-time at Hyndburn Sports Centre while playing for Barrow next season.
But Stanley still means the world to him. "I have enjoyed every minute of it and look back with a lot of pride and a lot of happy memories.
"It will be a mixture of nerves and all kinds of emotions tomorow but I am looking forward to running out in a Stanley shirt and finishing in a Barrow shirt - it is symbolic of what has happened."
Manager John Coleman is hoping the Reds fans come and support Smith.
"I hope there is a good turn-out for Jonathan as he has put in some good service. He played some memorable games and scored some important goals. I really hope he gets a good crowd," he said.
- LUTEL James is currently making up his mind about which club he moves to next. Two Conference clubs have been in touch with the striker, who was released from Stanley in the summer, while Conference North side's Droylsden and Harrogate are also interested. He had been linked with the newly formed FC United of Manchester but said: "I haven't got a clue where that rumour has come from. I haven't been anywhere near them."
- FORMER Red Gary Williams is believed to be training with Conference newcomers Altrincham.