Arsenal and England’s Kelly Smith MBE has won the PFA Special Achievement Award.
Smith announced her retirement from football at the start of 2017 after a stellar career that spanned two decades.
Smith is the official all-time record goalscorer for England for England, with 46 strikes in 117 appearances.
She played in two World Cups and four European Championships, as well as the London 2012 Olympic Games, and was in the top five for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Award every year from 2006 to 2009.
England captain Steph Houghton, who played along-side the striker domestically and internationally, commented: “Kelly is simply one of the best players in the world and I think the greatest ever England player.”
“As a team-mate for club and country she was fantastic. She was a real leader, she was passionate, inspiring and women’s football won’t be the same without her.”
The striker spent her prodigious footballing childhood playing in boys’ teams before stepping up to the women’s game as a teenager – first with Wembley Ladies, then with Arsenal.
Smith headed to America for her college education, becoming a legend at Seton Hall University, where she broke all known records for football and was honoured by having her shirt retired after her graduation. She stayed in the USA to begin her professional career, spending time in New Jersey, then with the Philadelphia Charge, and later with Boston Breakers.
She returned to Arsenal in 2005, and in the 12 years since then, she has consistently been one of the world’s best performers.
Her 2015 season was brought to premature halt after sustaining an ankle injury that required surgery. While she could not play, she took on the role of assistant coach to Pedro Martinez Losa for the remainder of the season.
She returned to action in 2016, playing a pivotal role in Arsenal’s FA Cup-winning run, including a classy performance in the final against Chelsea at the national stadium.
“Winning the 2016 FA Cup at Wembley was the most glorious way to complete my career,” said Smith in her statement confirming her retirement.
“It was always going to be tough for me to stop playing but I feel now is the right time.”
In February, Smith was honoured with a testimonial match between Arsenal and an All-Star XI.
Having recently announced her pregnancy, she came off the sidelines to take a carefully choreographed penalty, making her way through a guard of honour to net for the final time in her career.
Smith now moves into a full-time coaching role with Arsenal Ladies, where she is currently in charge of the Under-20s.