(Gold Coast United / New Zealand)
Shane Smeltz, at the age of 28 and after a fairly non-descript time in the lower leagues of English football, has been fantastic in the last couple of the seasons of the Australian A-League. After undergoing something of a renaissance down under he is a player to look out for at the World Cup. Not one to set the world alight, but this is New Zealand and he has been outstanding in the A-League.
Shane Smeltz was born in the city of Göppingen in then West Germany on the 29th September 1981. Smeltz spent his childhood on the Gold Coast, an Australian city and Australia was the country where he started football.
The Queensland Academy of Sport was where Shane Smeltz started playing at a high level of football in 1997. Each Australian state has an Academy of Sport and there is also a National Academy of Sport, the Australian Institute of Sport.
Smeltz started senior football at Gold Coast City in 1999 where he played 2 games before moving to the Brisbane Strikers who played in the then Australian top flight, The National Soccer League. He played 21 games from 1999-2001 before moving to his next club. In 2002 he moved to the Napier City Rovers of his native New Zealand where he absolutely dominated the league scoring 20 goals in 21 appearances.
Later in 2002 Smeltz moved back to Australia with Adelaide City where he scored 7 goals in 29 games before moving to new Adelaide club, Adelaide United after Adelaide City folded. After scoring only 1 goal in 7 games in the final season of the National Soccer League, Smeltz secured a move to England.
In 2005 Smeltz moved to then League Two side Mansfield United, but he failed to score in 5 games for The Stags. After this dismal season he moved to AFC Wimbledon where in the Isthmian Premier League he fared much better, scoring 26 goals in 43 games. This secured Smeltz a move to the then Conference side Halifax Town, which proved to be a difficult challenge for the Kiwi. He scored only 2 goals in 31 appearances.
In 2007, Shane Smeltz moved back to New Zealand, signing for Wellington Phoenix to play in their inaugural season. Smeltz was by far the best player there, and despite the Phoenix finishing last he scored 9 goals which made him the second highest scorer in the A-League. Smeltz’s success continued for the Phoenix in 2008/09 season; he finished as top scorer on 12 goals despite the Phoenix coming 6th(third last). For his achievements that season he won the Johnny Warren Medal and the Reebok Golden Boot.
In 2009, Smeltz moved to expansion club, Gold Coast United where he showed that if he was in a decent side he could score goals and that he did, emerging runaway top scorer with 19 goals, breaking his own A-League record. Again in 2009/2010, Smeltz finished the season as Golden Boot winner. Currently, Smeltz holds the tag as the 2nd highest scorer in A-League history, just 7 goals behind record-holder Archie Thompson – despite playing 36 less games.
With Smeltz’s recent successes he certainly has the ability to play Championship football, and he could make this move after the World Cup. His winning goal in a World Cup warm-up friendly against Serbia hints at a promising tournament to come in South Africa.
If he does make a move in the summer hopefully he doesn’t flop like he did in his last stint in English football. But Smeltz is more experienced now and if anyone from New Zealand could move to a decent level of football it is unquestionably Shane Smeltz.