Thursday, August 16, 2018
News

Georgi Hristov closing in on Derek Smethurst’s Rowdies record

BRANDON ó Derek Smethurst didnít expect to be a Rowdie for long.

As an established player in the English Premier League, he signed a contract to play for the 1975 expansion team in Tampa Bay in the new North American Soccer League. His plan was to spend the summer training so he could go back to playing in England.

"I came here to get fit," said Smethurst, a native of South Africa who now lives in Valrico. "At that time Nottingham Forest was interested in me but if youíre not fit, then it doesnít matter. When I got here it reminded me of Durban (South Africa) as opposed to the damp, cold, miserable weather I was in. It was the beach bum, surfer-type thing. It took me five minutes to decide Iím staying here."

He secured a green card and laid down roots.

In 65 games with the Rowdies from 1975-78, Smethurst scored 57 goals. That was more than Rowdies notables of his time such as Rodney Marsh, Oscar Fabbiani or Steve Wegerle.

Itís a record that still stands. And it is about to be broken.

Forward Georgi Hristov, a 33-year-old Bulgarian, notched his 55th career goal as a Rowdie in a 2-0 win over Bethlehem in the seasonís second week. Hristov has played in 149 games since joining Tampa Bay in March of 2013. The record could be tied or broken tonight, when the Rowdies host Ottawa.

"Itís about time somebody did it, and it better be Georgi," Smethurst said. "Iíve still got a little time, and I want to see somebody break it. If he doesnít, I donít think Iíll be around when itís broken."

Smethurst, 70, said he didnít even know he had the record until about five years ago. Thatís when some friends saw it online and asked him about it.

"I just knew at that time that I was way out in front of the others," he said. "I had no idea. I just thought that somebodyís got to beat this thing."

And barring something unforeseen, that somebody is Hristov. Smethurst said he has not met Hristov and has not seen him play for the Rowdies. Now retired from running soccer clubs in the Brandon area, Smethurst said he tries to keep up with the Rowdies but doesnít get to many games.

Like Smethurst, Hristov didnít think he would play very long for Tampa Bay. He started his professional career in 2002 in the Bulgarian second division. In 2008-09 his club, Levski Sofia, won the Bulgarian first division.

When he signed with the Rowdies, the plan was to have a good season and move on.

"When I came here, I wasnít even sure I was going to stay after my first year," Hristov said. "Iíve had some offers throughout the years. But it just turned out that Iíve been here six years now. Iím happy here. Who knows, I might finish my career here one day."

No current player has been on the roster as long as Hristov. Dating to last season, he has a goal in six of his past seven games. He was scoreless in last weekís 1-0 loss to Louisville.

That hot streak has gotten him close enough to the club scoring record that heís starting to get more attention. He never saw Smethurst play, but he knows breaking the mark will be a big accomplishment.

"Iíve done some research, and Iíve talked to people," he said. "Iím very close to (former player and general manager) Perry Van Der Beck. I know there were some great players that played for those teams. Iím happy and proud to play for the Rowdies."

One thing Smethurst will always have over any other Rowdies player is that he once kicked field goals for the Bucs. He was brought in for the 1977 preseason, but a leg injury cut his football career short after only a few games. He never played in a regular-season NFL game.

"I earned a lot of money for nothing, kind of weird," Smethurst said. "We didnít get over the halfway line a whole lot. I think I kicked a 38-yarder once and I thought to myself, ĎThatís the closest Iím going to get.í?"

     
Comments
Rick Scott hasnít endorsed in GOP primary but he just campaigned with Adam Putnam

Rick Scott hasnít endorsed in GOP primary but he just campaigned with Adam Putnam

Gov. Rick Scott has remained on the sidelines in the Republican race to replace him. He hasn't backed his co-cabinet member (Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) or President Donald Trump's top choice (U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis).But on Thursday, Scott ...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
How ĎDisenchantmentí is completely different from what Matt Groening has done before

How ĎDisenchantmentí is completely different from what Matt Groening has done before

First he came for the family sitcom. Then he came for the science-fiction adventure. Now heís back for the medieval fantasy, and heís grabbing the Disney princess movie while heís at it.Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, has brought...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Yeah, but …Every Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate is full of them.Winston has completed more passes (939), gained more passing yards (11,636) and thrown more passing touchdowns (69) before his age 24 season than any quarterback in NFL histo...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
In Clearwater, this woman is crafting a unique baseball career

In Clearwater, this woman is crafting a unique baseball career

CLEARWATER ó The voice of the Clearwater Threshers grew up a couple hours down the coast, listening to Dewayne Staats and making annual family trips to the Trop.The giveaway to what Kirsten Karbach would become, however, should have been her baseball...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Sunday, Aug. 19

Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Sunday, Aug. 19

Summer Classic Movie Series: The series continues with 1974ís Blazing Saddles (R). 3 p.m., Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St., Tampa. $10, $7 members. (813) 274-8982; tampatheatre.org.Alonzo Bodden: The winner of Season 3 of Last Comic Standing is a reg...
Updated: 1 hour ago
What would it take to overthrow king Publix? Safewayís Florida exit begs the question.

What would it take to overthrow king Publix? Safewayís Florida exit begs the question.

LARGO ó Everything is on clearance inside Tampa Bayís only Safeway grocery store. Patio furniture, 40 percent off. Beach chairs, too. Most grocery items are 30 percent off; the entire liquor store is 20 percent off.The discounts will probably get ste...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Saturday, Aug. 18

Top things to do in Tampa Bay on Saturday, Aug. 18

Journey and Def Leppard: Two of the worldís most popular rock bands team up to co-headline a sold-out show at 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500; amaliearena.com.Alonzo Bodden: The winner of season three of Last Comic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Is Trump helping, or hurting, Florida Democrats?

Is Trump helping, or hurting, Florida Democrats?

TAMPA — No wonder why Florida Democrats are so optimistic about this election year.President Trump's upset election generated unprecedented progressive energy that has barely flickered through 18 months of his presidency, through the Parkland s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former Plant High football player charged with murder in Detroit

Former Plant High football player charged with murder in Detroit

Tykese Keaton-Baldwin wanted to be remembered as a state champion, the best running back in Plant High School history.Now, the 20-year-old former Panther is facing murder charges in Detroit and the possibility of leaving behind a much different legac...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Everything you need to know about whoís running for Hernandoís School Board

Everything you need to know about whoís running for Hernandoís School Board

More seats than not are contested on the Hernando County School Board this year, meaning local education politics could soon look very different. Or not, considering that two of three races have incumbents vying to keep their spots.The Aug. 28 primar...
Updated: 2 hours ago