Aidan ‘Jacko’ Smith enjoying life as West Bromwich Albion kitman

Insights into daily life in the Premier League a treat for the football-mad Dublin native

Aidan “Jacko” Smith at the Hawthorns where he is kitman with Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. “It can be a lot of hours,” he says. “But it’s great.”

Call it a sort of footballing fairytale and The Slipper fits quite nicely as a starting point. That, the pub in Glasnevin to be clear, is where Aidan "Jacko" Smith was persuaded to take the plunge and apply for the job of kitman with West Brom. A year or so on and if it wasn't for the accent he could be taken for a Hawthorns lifer.

Smith has no shortage of stories to tell from his own playing days, 14 years of almost exclusively First Division football with various clubs in Ireland which he loved every minute of.

His father being a staunch GAA supporter from Meath, Jacko hadn’t been allowed to play the game until he was 18 and able to afford his own boots and gloves. “Within a few months at Home Farm,” he recalls with a laugh,” I couldn’t keep him away”.

It was only when a day job working for kit suppliers led to a post-playing career shift from coaching to kitman that he tasted a bit of glamour: two cup final; one each with Longford and Shelbourne.


“I was thinking this is a pressure game, all those people watching. Now every game is like that." The stakes are high and so too are the expectations.

Mistakes can mean fines or red faces for those higher up. In the worst case they might be perceived as having contributed in some way to a poor result and that he acknowledges, “could be a straight red, right there”.

His move came because John Courtney, then his boss at Umbro, nudged him towards becoming the Irish U-19 team’s kitman and Andrew Hussey, who looked after some of the logistics for the FAI left to work for West Brom. When their kitman left, he suggested Smith send over a CV. The club were playing Everton on the telly that night and Smith, who was pretty sceptical at first, mentioned it to his mates in a kind of “This’ll make you laugh...” sort of way as they watched in The Slipper. They told him he’d be mad not to go for it.

Senior team

By this stage he worked for Macron where Johnny Fallon, kitman to the Irish senior team for 11 years, was his boss and he said the same thing. "He said he'll die a happy man with the memories that he has, going to Saipan and places like that, staying in five-star hotels. He said, 'you might be only the kitman but you've access all areas, it's fantastic'." A few weeks and two interviews later he was in the Hawthorns.

The work, he says, is harder than he expected but even more enjoyable. “It can be a lot of hours,” he says, “but it’s great.” Even with the help of another member of the backroom staff, Gareth Trevor, there is plenty in the job description to keep him busy.

Dealing with Premier League footballers requires a certain amount of flexibility, though, and the “fixer” element of his role has included everything from shipping tops back to Ireland to have long sleeves added to hunting down a particular brand of popcorn for a player.

Smith is happy to do his bit and then some although on one occasion he unwittingly went too far by washing all of the squad’s shinguards. “The bang off them was something else but Gareth McAuley went a nice way. He was all ‘You what! I’ve had eight years with them and I’ve never broken my leg.”

Players will want to wear the shirt they scored a hat-trick in until some misfortune befalls them, he says, others stick to some strange pre-match ritual and then there’s Tony Pulis himself. “The gaffer and his white trainers....” he says, “he’s very particular.”

For someone with his love of the game, the rewards of the job are many. The actual pay is modest enough but the “buzz” he says, “back in the dressing room after they’ve taken three points is incredible.”

A steady stream of friends from Ireland come over to visit and his sons, Matthew and James, who live in Longford, are beneficiaries too.

“They love it,” he says of the teenage boys, “no matter who you’re playing they’re looking for the jerseys. They don’t look for any jerseys, though, it has to be the fellas like Diego Costa . .”

Shirts are a big thing, signed ones bigger and everyone is under pressure to get them for somebody. After November’s game at Chelsea Chris Baird did actually get Smith Costa’s.

Joleon Lescott and Saido Berahino went well out of their way to try to get shirts of favourite Liverpool players. When Craig Gardner got him a few tickets, he got the midfielder a box set of Love Hate as a thank you. It went down well and got passed around but the upshot is that Jacko is in danger of becoming known amongst the players as 'Nidge'.

At times, he still feels like a big kid; idly chatting to Sammy Lee about the playing surface at Southampton, just standing on the pitch at the Emirates 10 minutes before kick off or heading for the first time into Loftus Road. “We went to Sacramento for pre-season and I’d never been to America. There I was, texting me mates back home like Mr Big Balls.”

At QPR he was under orders from Spurs scout Fallon to say hello to Harry Redknapp and the pair got talking. The Londoners had just signed Ryan Manning from Galway United where Richard Dunne's cousin, Tommy, is the manager and move had dragged on. "Yeah, we had to pay a few quid for the boy and it's a risk," Redknapp told him, ""but sometimes you've got to take risks....that's that life's about."

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times