With no Premier League or Championship fixtures on offer, many fans will be wondering how to get their football fix this weekend.

But despite the international break, there are still a whole host of domestic matches taking place in both the Football League and in non-league.

One team that are still in action is Hashtag United, the 'YouTube football team' that are flying high at the top of the Isthmian Premier League North Division. They sit nine points clear of second-place Sudbury and have won their last 21 matches.

Defender Nathan Smith, 36, who recently joined the Tags, having previously played for the likes of Yeovil and Chesterfield, believes that there aren't many clubs that compare to Hashtag in their unique but refreshing style.

Speaking exclusively to Mirror Football, Smith said: "It has been refreshing, it has been different I must say. As many would know, they are different from a traditional type of football club. It's allowed me to be open to new experiences, which I am relishing to be honest."

Hashtag was founded by Spencer Owen back in 2016, where he played exhibition-style matches against teams that varied between celebrities, fellow YouTubers and amateur sides. However, Owen decided to register the Tags into the 10th tier for the start of the 2018/19 season.

They haven't looked back since. Hashtag, managed by Jay Devereux, won the Eastern Counties Division South in their first season as a club, earning promotion to the Essex Senior League. The 2019/20 campaign was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the club second in the league.

After the following season was also cut short with Hashtag top, they won promotion to the eighth tier on points-per-game from the last two years. Having finished in a respectable eighth place in 2021/22, Devereux’s side have taken it to a new level this time around.

Ahead of their trip to Stowmarket on Non-League Day (Saturday), the Tags are currently on the longest active winning run in the top eight tiers of English football with 21. "At any level, if you are able to get a winning run together like that, especially in the league, is a brilliant achievement," Smith said. "To get past the 20 mark is great to be apart of."

Hashtag boast more Instagram followers than every current Championship club bar Watford and are changing the way non-league is viewed across the country. They have over 1,000,000 combined followers on social media, including a whopping 227k on Twitter.

"It's exciting for me because I am learning a lot while I am at Hashtag," Smith continued. "What Spencer [Owen] has done is marvellous and he is a man that has a vision.

"We have a vision that many people can't see at the moment but I feel like he is doing something very good, very different and revolutionary. Hashtag are changing the game and there’s no two ways about it.

"You see the views, the social media following and I questioned it myself. These lot are getting a lot more attention than some Premier League clubs."

As for Smith, he moved to Hashtag on March 4 after a spell at National League South side Concord Rangers. Prior to that, the former Jamaican international had spent time at the likes of Yeovil, Chesterfield and Dagenham & Redbridge, making over 450 appearances.

Reflecting on his career, Smith said: "It has been a joyful journey, starting out in non-league and then working hard and enjoying football as much as I could. I became a professional, learnt new things down at Yeovil, it was a completely different environment compared to what I was used to in London.

"Going through to Chesterfield, which was another good experience and we went onto win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Man of the Match at Wembley. I also got a call-up to the Jamaican national team.

"I have experienced a promotion, a relegation which I felt like put me on a completely different stead to many others. This is because you have experienced the lows and found a way to bounce back and also had highs, there’s not too many people who can say they’ve been through that.”

During his time at Yeovil, Smith was given a FIFA 17 ultimate team base card that made him the fastest centre-back on the game for two successive years. It was a feat no League Two player has achieved before, but Smith, who didn't make much of it at the time, admits that it is one of his fondest moments in his career.

He explained: "When it happened, it was funny because a Yeovil fan messaged me on Snapchat, I was like 'err'. I wasn't expecting it but it was nice. At the beginning, I was like cool, but when you take a minute to actually absorb it, this is a game a lot of people play.

"Not just youngsters but older people as well. To be the fastest [centre-back] in a game that the whole world plays, I had to look at it as a very big achievement.

"FIFA is a game me and my friends used to play, a lot of people would go at it, control pads used to go flying in frustration. I am still proud of it to this day."

Some may say Smith is entering the twilight of his career, having turned 36 in January and dropped into non-league following almost a decade as a professional. However, the former Dulwich Hamlet defender doesn’t see it that way.

With the help of his health company, Smith is planning to continue playing for many years to come and isn't planning on retirement anytime soon. One of Smith's Hashtag teammates is former Wolves defender Greg Halford, 38, who has enjoyed an illustrious career in the Football League.

Smith finished: "There is no greater feeling than going to mix it with the professionals and still being able to run around more than them. Some are confused about why I still do it, but I do it because I really enjoy the game.

"Even at Hashtag now, we’ve got players with lots of energy who don’t play the victim card and that gives me more motivation to keep going. I love the game!

"If you listen to what people say in life, your ship will sink. I know what I know about life, I study a lot about health, I understand what makes people age and tire. Knowing what I know, I live what I talk about. That is one of the best things about this game of football. There’s players that you see that are over 40 that are still playing. I think I can keep going for a very long time and mix it with higher levels."

2023-03-25T09:56:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd