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It was a world away from the classrooms at Pate's

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 19, 2013

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Echo Sport writer Laura Fell attended Pate's Grammar School with Oldham Athletic's FA Cup hero Matt Smith.

She joined five Old Patesian classmates in the Boundary Park terraces to cheer on their mate to another unforgettable night of Cup giantkilling.

As chants of 'Ole, Ole, Ole, Matty Smith, Smith, Smith' rang out around Boundary Park, the 23-year-old Oldham striker ran on to the pitch, his side 2-1 down against Premier League giants Everton.

For six former Pate's Grammar School pupils standing expectantly in the raucous crowd applauding wildly, this was a special moment.

Alongside some of my closest friends, I had watched him score two goals against Liverpool two weeks before with an immense amount of pride and sheer disbelief.

Eventually, as the final whistle blew and Oldham won the match 3-2, I was giddy.

Surely he couldn't repeat those heroics against Everton?

Yet in fairy-tale fashion he did. A last-minute equaliser; the stuff FA Cup dreams are made of.

You could sense a goal was highly possible and the tension was unbearable.

The minutes were ticking down fast, and both Smith and Robbie Simpson had had three or four chances saved by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Four minutes of injury time were announced and Oldham pressure was still mounting.

The home side had successive corners and we nervously watched Smith dominating the box and leaping for any available ball, his large frame proving too much for defenders to handle.

Then, it happened.

As Smith headed the ball in to the back of the net, his large body seemingly floating in the air for an eternity before connecting, we roared in delight, leaping in to each other's arms eyes wide with bewilderment and excitement.

Vast feelings of pride washed over me. It was an emotional moment we would savour.

The final whistle blew and Boundary Park was rocking, the noise deafening. A replay at Goodison Park beckoned.

Smith – a rudimentary nickname he gained at school – looked dazed and overwhelmed after the match.

He was surprisingly quiet, hugging us and his parents before being whisked away for more media duties.

This was a world away from the classrooms and corridors of Pate's Grammar School, where I first knew Smith.

I remember him to be intelligent and modest at school, well-mannered, quiet and an integral part of our lively friendship group.

He was irritatingly good at French and naturally athletic.

But little did we know he would become a professional footballer who would make such a mark on the oldest football competition in the world.

His heroic antics have encapsulated the 'magic' of the FA Cup and captured the public's imagination.

Yet it must be noted that he remains markedly grounded and modest despite the media storm that is engulfing him.

In a stark return to normality, we all went bowling on Sunday. And no, Smith didn't win.

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