FEW current non-league footballers can claim to have learnt their trade alongside European Cup winners.

Yet Worcester City can count more than one in their ranks following Liverpool's remarkable penalty shoot-out triumph over AC Milan this week.

Liverpool's Harry Kewell was one of several young stars at Leeds United's centre of excellence -- one age group ahead of new City signing Chris Smith.

A previous Andy Preece recruit, midfielder George Clegg, played in the same Manchester United youth team as 1999 Champions League winner Wes Brown.

Furthermore, Brown's former United colleague Andy Cole was team-mates with ex-City centre-half Colin Hoyle during their Arsenal trainee days.

Smith, 23, a free transfer from Stafford Rangers, began his career as a schoolboy at Elland Road before switching to Reading and later establishing himself at York City.

At Leeds, the competitive Derby-born defender developed his game in company with another feisty Smith, Manchester United and England forward Alan.

"I was at Leeds when Howard Wilkinson was manager," explains Smith. "There was 13 of us at our age level and he released 11, including myself.

"The ones he kept was a lad called Gareth Evans, who is at Blackpool now, and Alan Smith. We were the same age and I played alongside him. He was a great player then and actually played in central midfield.

"He comes across as arrogant, which he is, but it obviously works for him because he's playing at the highest level.

"At Leeds, the year above mine had the likes of Harry Kewell, Stephen McPhail, Jonathan Woodgate and Paul Robinson, so we looked up to them.

"Look where they are now. Kewell plays for Liverpool, Robinson has won England caps and Woodgate is playing for the biggest club in the world.

"Because I was at the school of excellence and they were doing their YT, we did not really associate with each other. But we went on tour to France with them and that was a good experience."

After being discarded by the Yorkshire giants, Smith signed YT forms at Reading but failed to make a first team break-through under manager Alan Pardew.

He moved on to Bootham Crescent, making over 90 appearances for the Minstermen before the club sank from the Football League at the end of the 2003/04 campaign.

During his three-year spell at York, Smith was entrusted with the task of marking striker Preece in clashes against Bury and Carlisle.

Smith added: "I played against Andy Preece a couple of times when he was at Carlisle and Bury.

"I remember playing against Carlisle the season they went down. Obviously, I had to mark him and he was very good in the air.

"I enjoyed it at York and it gave me a lot of experience, playing against good sides in the Football League. Obviously, its every footballers' dream to play in the Football League and I still want to play there."