- One Of The Games True Hard Men
- Liverpool Legend
Tommy Smith was one of the games true hard men, and is often mentioned as being the original “Scud- Missile” – you would see him coming, but could do nothing about it.
He was the first Liverpool Captain to hold a European Trophy, and in 1977 was awarded the MBE for services to his sport.
Born in Liverpool, Tommy Smith joined Liverpool FC under new manager Bill Shankly as a schoolboy on 19 May 1960 and made his début 3 years later on 8 May 1963, 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.
In 1965, He 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 the 1 May.
The 1965-66 campaign saw Tommy become a fixture in the team which went on to regain the League title, earning him 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, he would have attained a rare haul of three winners´ medals from the three different European contests.
After the success of ´66 there then followed a barren period for Liverpool in the late 1960s and after a disastrous cup defeat at Vicarage Road to Watford Shankly decided to dismantle the team and build a new, younger side.
Tommny 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 reservres and Steve Heighway, John Toshack and, later, Kevin Keegan join the club. Tommy was given the honour of club captaincy and led the team to the 1971 FA Cup final, which Liverpool, unfortunately, lost to Arsenal.
In 1973 he skippered the team to their first double success of the League and UEFA Cup when they topped the league by 3 points over Arsenal and beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-2 on aggregate. He then had the disappointment of losing the captaincy to Hughes after he had complained to Shankly at being left out of the team for a game.
When he returned, he was also moved from his favoured central defensive role to full back. Tommy ultimately settled his differences with his manager satisfactorily, though less so with Hughes who went on to lift the FA Cup in 1974 after Liverpool comprehensively beat Newcastle United in one of the most one-sided of Wembley finals.
As his 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 Tommy 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.
He 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 March, he was recalled and kept his place as the side went on to retain the League title.
He 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 Tommy 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.
Two days after the remarkable night in Rome, Tommy 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 !. He decided to delay his retirement and played a further season for Liverpool.
Tommy 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 he 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.
Apart from a brief spell as youth coach at Liverpool, he did has not stay 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 he has made a reasonable living from talking about his career as the Anfield Iron – a nickname afforded to him by Liverpool supporters.
He is also still held in high regards amongst the Koppites as he was voted 25th in the Official Liverpool Football Club web site poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.
Tommy is available for “After Dinner” Speaking events such as Lunches and Sporting Dinners at Football Clubs.