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Tommy Smith (footballer born 1945)

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Tommy Smith (footballer born 1945)

Tommy Smith
Personal information
Full name Thomas Smith
Date of birth (1945-04-05) 5 April 1945
Place of birth Liverpool, England
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1962–1978 Liverpool 467 (36)
1976 Tampa Bay Rowdies (loan) 17 (0)
1978 Los Angeles Aztecs 12 (0)
1978–1979 Swansea City 36 (2)
National team
England U-23 10 (2)
1971 England 1 (0)
Teams managed
1978 Los Angeles Aztecs
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Thomas "Tommy" Smith MBE (born 5 April 1945) was a long-serving footballer with Liverpool, known for his uncompromising defensive style. Manager Bill Shankly once said of him: "Tommy Smith wasn't born, he was quarried."[1]

Life and playing career

Born in Liverpool, Smith joined Liverpool F.C. under new manager Bill Shankly as a schoolboy on 19 May 1962 and made his début three years later on 8 May 1963,[2] the last day of the season in a comprehensive 5–1 victory over Birmingham City at Anfield. However, he made no appearances throughout the following season, as Liverpool won the League title. He scored his first goal in the 3–2 league defeat to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on 29 August 1964.

In 1965, Smith started to feature more regularly and was an integral part of the Liverpool side that won the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history, They beat Leeds United 2–1 after extra-time in the final at Wembley on 1 May. Although a defender, Smith wore the No. 10 shirt; a cunning ploy by manager Bill Shankly to confuse opponents in the days when specific numbers always represented specific positions on the pitch. The No. 10 shirt usually was worn by an inside forward.

The 1965–66 campaign saw Smith become a fixture in the team which went on to regain the League title, earning Smith the first of his four championship medals, However, the season also had the taste of disappointment as Liverpool lost 2–1 in the 1966 European Cup Winners' Cup Final to Borussia Dortmund at Hampden Park. Had Liverpool won, with future successes in other European competitions to come, Smith would have attained a rare haul of three winners' medals from the three different European contests.

After the success of 1966 there then followed a barren period for Liverpool in the late 1960s and after a disastrous cup defeat at Vicarage Road to Watford in February 1970, Shankly decided to dismantle the team and build a new, younger side. Smith and team-mates Ian Callaghan, Chris Lawler and Emlyn Hughes survived the cull which saw the likes of Alec Lindsay, Brian Hall and Ray Clemence emerge from the reserves and Steve Heighway, John Toshack and, later, Kevin Keegan join the club.

Smith was given the honour of club captaincy and led the team to the 1971 FA Cup final, which Liverpool lost to Arsenal 2–1 after extra time. In 1973, Smith skippered the team to their first double success of the League and UEFA Cup, when they topped the league by three points over Arsenal and beat Borussia Mönchengladbach in the UEFA Cup final 3–2 on aggregate.

The following season, after Smith complained to Shankly at being left out of the team for a game, he had the big disappointment of losing the captaincy to Emlyn Hughes. Earlier, Hughes had told Shankly to remove the captaincy from Smith and give it to a younger man. When he returned, he was also moved from his favoured central defensive role to full back. Although Smith ultimately settled his differences with Shankly satisfactorily, a long-running feud developed between Smith and Hughes which led to some tension in the Liverpool dressing room, where the older players remained loyal to Smith and voiced their dislike of Hughes's chattiness (and parsimony in the pub).[3]

Hughes went on to lift the FA Cup as captain in 1974 after Liverpool comprehensively beat Newcastle United 3–0 in one of the most one-sided of Wembley finals. Although Smith missed out on receiving the trophy from Princess Anne, he did have the pleasure of setting up the third and final goal for the young striker Keegan, a stunning team goal.

As Smith's twilight years approached, he made fewer appearances and with the emergence of youngsters Phil Thompson and Phil Neal as central defender and full back respectively, though he still played an important role as Liverpool managed another League and UEFA Cup dual success in 1976, when he appeared 24 times in the league and played a left-back role in both legs of the UEFA final. The following year, which Smith had announced would be his final season with the club, started with him out of the side for several months, but ended with his finest moment.

Smith spent the 1976 season playing 17 games on loan as a defender for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, where he continued his trademark toughness and earned the nickname, "The Tank." He then returned to England.[4]

Smith was left out of the side that started the 1976–77 season but, when Thompson picked up an injury in Liverpool's 1–0 win over Newcastle in the month of March, he was recalled and kept his place as the side went on to retain the League title. Smith then played in the 1977 FA Cup final which Liverpool lost to bitter rivals Manchester United, thereby ruining the chance of a treble, with the club's first European Cup final in Rome due a few days later. Despite the disappointment of the defeat at Wembley, Liverpool played magnificently to beat old UEFA Cup foes Borussia Mönchengladbach 3–1, with Smith scoring a towering header from a corner to make the score 2–1. It was his 48th and final goal for the club and the first for the season. The BBC commentator Barry Davies described the goal with the words "It's Tommy Smith! Oh what an end to a career."[5]

Two days after the remarkable night in Rome, Smith had his testimonial game at Anfield, a Bobby Charlton select Xl and 35,694 fans turned out to honour the Liverpool hardman as the side played out an entertaining 9–9 draw, such was the party atmosphere of the evening the Liverpool goalscorers included 2 from goalkeeper Clemence and 2 from the now 'prolific' Smith! The match also featured local amateur footballer Lol Cottrell, who had been trained to take part in the match as part of the BBC TV reality show The Big Time.

Smith decided to delay his retirement and played a further season for Liverpool (missing the successful retention of the European Cup after a DIY accident at home injured his foot).

He spent the summer of 1978 in the NASL with the Los Angeles Aztecs. He started as a player but became player/head coach halfway through the season.[6] At the end of the season he was replaced by Dutch legend Rinus Michels.

Smith left for Swansea City after 638 games in 1978, receiving the M.B.E for services to football that same year. The Swans were being managed by his former Liverpool team-mate John Toshack at the time and Smith helped Swansea to promotion from the old Third Division. He retired from playing in 1979. It's notable that despite his long association with a winning team, level of respect within the game and amount of medals, he was only ever selected once to play for England, in a 0–0 drawn British Home Championship match against Wales at Wembley in 1971. He also made junior and under-23 appearances for his country early in his career.


Smith was known for his sharp tongue during games, often seen berating and even trying to instruct the referee in command. That said, he certainly had the respect of his peers, with fellow "hard man" Jack Charlton once saying "Tommy Smith was easily the hardest player I faced. I ran into him once and he knocked every ounce of breath out of me. I tried to get up and look like he hadn't hurt me, but he had." Charlton's defensive partner at Leeds United, Norman Hunter, and Chelsea's Ron Harris, both considered as tough players, also pay similar respects to Smith.


Apart from a brief spell as youth coach at Liverpool, Smith has not stayed in the game to any great extent, preferring business and journalistic careers after his playing days ended, but his legend lives on whenever people refer to the vernacular of the "hard men of football" and Smith has made a reasonable living from talking about his career as the Anfield Iron – a nickname afforded to him by Liverpool supporters. For a time, Smith owned a pub in Billinge, Wigan, called "The Smithy".

In 1988, Smith caused considerable controversy after making derogatory comments about black people to author Dave Hill while being interviewed in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool for a book Hill was writing about black Liverpool FC player John Barnes. Smith was uncomplimentary about Howard Gayle, a black former Liverpool player with whom Smith had been at the club in the 1970s while the striker was a youth team player, saying that: "Howard suffered from a black man's attitude towards the white man. See, everybody thinks whites have an attitude towards blacks. In reality it's blacks who have a problem with the whites".[7]

Smith later added that to gain his respect and friendship, "coloured" people have to learn to "think like the white man" and that he later grew to like Gayle, remarking that "I used to call Howard the 'White Nigger'. Now that is a compliment. It was the only way I could find to describe that I thought he was OK." Smith then went on to comment to Hill that "I'm not prejudiced but if a coon moved in next door, I'd move, like most white people would. If my daughter came home with a nigger, I'd go mad. But I'm only being truthful and normal."[7]

Hill reproduced Smith's comments in his 1989 book Out of His Skin: The John Barnes Phenomenon. Smith reacted furiously and implied that he intended to sue Hill, but he in fact had no grounds to take legal action as Hill had recorded all of Smith's comments on tape during the interview and had quoted all of his statements accurately while keeping the tape safe in his possession.[8]

In his later years, Smith had a hip replacement operation (both knees and an elbow are made of plastic as well) and also began to suffer from arthritis to the extent that he couldn't work and often needed a wheelchair or walking stick and had to claim incapacity benefit.

In 1996, Smith had to go to a social security tribunal to explain himself after he managed to take a penalty on the Wembley pitch in a light-hearted contest for charity which featured former footballers which took place at half-time during the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Manchester United. The informer was an employee for the DSS. Smith, perhaps only half-seriously, claimed in his newspaper column that the informer must have been an Everton supporter and had only reported him because of his probable anti-Liverpool bias. Staff at the same DSS branch at which the individual worked denied that he was an Everton supporter and claimed that he had no interest whatsoever in football, being a rugby league fan. Nonetheless, the myth of Smith being shopped by an Evertonian still persists. In any case, Smith's allowance was stopped for a while, but he is now back on the top level of disability benefit.[9]

Smith has been a weekly columnist for the Liverpool Echo for over 25 years and lives quietly in the Crosby area of Liverpool with his wife Susan. He is also still held in high regard amongst the Kopites as he was voted 25th in the Official Liverpool Football Club web site poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.

On 6 June 2007, Smith had a heart attack at his home in Liverpool and was rushed to hospital to receive treatment.[10] He underwent a six-way heart bypass shortly after, from which he made an excellent recovery and is back as a regular at Anfield for home matches.

He now supplements his income on the after-dinner circuit and by writing a column for a local newspaper. In March 2008 he published his autobiography, Anfield Iron.




  1. ^ Coping with Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. ^ Livepool FC Website Past Payers
  3. ^ "Emlyn Hughes". The Daily Telegraph (London). 10 November 2004. 
  4. ^,2784127
  5. ^ Wilson, Paul (23 May 2013). "The great European Cup teams: Liverpool 1977–84". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Dave Hill (1989), Out of His Skin: The John Barnes Phenomenon, WSC Books (2nd edition, 2001), pp. 134–135 
  8. ^ Dave Hill. "Barnes storm". When Saturday Comes (online edition). Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Moreton, Cole (23 March 2008). "Tommy Smith: Mersey's Man of Iron". The Independent (London). 
  10. ^ Daily Telegraph Sports Section, 7 June 2007 p.6: Anfield great has heart attack
  11. ^

External links

  • Exclusive interview
  • Official past players at
  • Player profile at
  • NASL stats
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