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Club News


16 March 2024

Club News


16 March 2024

The obituary for Steve Smith

- Steve Smith (1946-2024)
- Steve played for, managed and worked for the club
- The only Huddersfield Town Manager born in Huddersfield 

Everyone at Huddersfield Town is greatly saddened to learn of the passing of our former player, manager and staff member Steve Smith.

Steve (Heritage Number 396) was born in Huddersfield on 28 April 1946, and was spotted by Town’s Alf Young while playing for Rawthorpe in a schools final at Leeds Road. Young recommended the youngster to Town boss Eddie Boot.

Smith joined the club straight from school as a 15-year-old in October 1961, where he began an apprenticeship as a joiner at Leeds Road under the club’s handyman Fred Elms. He signed professional forms two years later in 1963 and made his debut in September 1964, in a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United at Leeds Road.

Caretaker manager Ian Greaves gave Smith his debut, and would go on to have a huge impact on his career later down the line. He would play three games in total for Greaves in September, but then didn’t return to the first team until April 1965, when he played the final three games of the campaign. By now, Tom Johnston had been appointed as Eddie Boot’s successor.

More frequent appearances came in the 1965/66 season, and Smith made history in September 1965, when he became the club’s first ever substitute when he replaced John Coddington against Preston North End at Leeds Road.

Although primarily an outside-right, Smith also played on the left, in midfield and up front in his 20 appearances that season. His first Town goal came in November 1965, when he bagged the winner a 1-0 win at Cardiff City. The season would ultimately end in disappointment as Town, who had been challenging for promotion all season, missed out by just three points.

The 1966/67 season saw more of the same for Smith, who spent much of it on the cusp of the first team. He started the first two matches on the left and played another five on the right before the arrival of right-winger Mike Hellawell. Occasional appearances in midfield followed as he finished on 18 appearances, as Town finished sixth in Division Two.

During the 1967/68 season, which was Tom Johnston’s final season in charge, Town finished in a poor 14th place and it was a rather miserable campaign for Smith too, who played regularly in the Central League but only featured in four first team matches.

After chief coach Ian Greaves became the first team manager in the summer of 1968, a number of young players began breaking into the side, such as Geoff Hutt, Bobby Hoy, Frank Worthington and Trevor Cherry, while Smith’s involvement also increased significantly.

The 1968/69 season saw Town finish sixth, with Smith playing 24 games and scoring a solitary goal. Most of his appearances came on the right, but he also provided cover on the left, in midfield and even in defence during the season, showing an early sign of his versatility and reliability on the field. By now, he’d been a professional for six years, and despite being 23, he had yet to really cement his place in the first team. He was also an occasional target for the boo boys in those early years, but this would soon change during the 1969/70 season, especially as he secured a regular place in the side after right winger Bobby Hoy suffered an injury around Christmas 1969.

Following that, Smith was virtually ever-present, missing just two matches as Town finished top of the tree, winning the Second Division title and securing promotion to Division One after 14 years away. Smith eventually silenced his critics by scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park, the goal that secured promotion. That goal was one of six that he netted that season. He played 25 games in all competitions and cemented his place in Town folklore as part of one of the more successful sides in the club’s history.

Ian Greaves once described Smith as a “people’s player”, and he selected him as the first-choice right winger going into 1970/71. It was a dream start as Town won the first game back in the big time, beating Blackpool 3-0 at Leeds Road, with Smith scoring two of the goals. He was now established in the side and missed just one match all season, ending on 48 games and six goals in all competitions. During the season, Smith played a few games in the middle of midfield, a position he would eventually convert to the following year.

Although Town survived, it was obvious to all concerned that they lacked firepower. Despite this, the club didn’t strengthen and as a result, the 1971/72 campaign was a complete disaster. Town failed to win any of their first six games, but form did pick up in September. Four wins in five propelled them to the lofty heights of 14th. However, another six-match winless run followed and although they won two more games in November, that was it. Town failed to win another match - a record that ultimately led to relegation.

One bright point about 1971/72 was an F.A. Cup run that saw Town reach the quarter finals (no Town team has matched that run since 1972), playing in front of 53,000 in an away tie at Birmingham City. Smith, by now playing in the centre of midfield, missed just two matches, meaning that he’d missed just three across the two seasons in Division One.

Following relegation, no-one could have predicted what would happen over the next three seasons. While Town retained quite a lot of the players (and the manager) from the 1970 promotion side, it wasn’t enough to arrest the slide. Town were relegated again in 1972/73, slipping into Division Three for the first time in their history. Smith played 30 games and scored one goal during that disastrous season.

The 1973/74 season wasn’t much better as Town failed to secure a return to the second tier, finishing 10th in the table and 14 points off promotion. Smith flitted between right wing and midfield throughout the season and finished on 41 games. At the end of the season, Ian Greaves departed after six years in charge. He was replaced by former Leeds United midfielder Bobby Collins in what was his first managerial job.

As the 1974/75 season approached, it coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Smith’s debut for the club. He became one of the few Town players to be granted a testimonial. This saw Brian Clough’s Leeds United come to Leeds Road on 3 August 1974, in what was Clough’s first game in charge in a job he’d only last 44 days in. 11,969 spectators watched the match and a total of £4,000 was raised.

The season turned out to be one to forget for Smith as he barely played. He started in midfield, but Brian O’Neil took his place in the side from October onwards and in December, he joined Bolton Wanderers on loan for three matches before returning in January 1975.

That same month, former manager Tom Johnston returned to the club as General Manager, which caused its own problems for manager Bobby Collins. Town ended the season bottom of the table, suffering relegation to Division Four.

Smith found his way back into the side for the 1975/76 season, becoming one of just five players to have played in all four divisions at Leeds Road, with Poole, Hutt, Jimmy Lawson and Terry Dolan also making the list, and also had a spell as captain. He would miss just five games in a season where Collins would resign and be replaced by Johnston, who steered Town to a fifth place finish, just two points off promotion.

The 1976/77 season was another disappointment as Town finished nine points off automatic promotion. It would also signal the end of Smith’s time at Leeds Road, and he left the club at the end of the season after 16 years. He played 50 games in his final season, contributing to an overall figure of 380 appearances and 34 goals. By the time he departed, Smith was the last remaining player from the Division One years.

Following his Leeds Road exit, Smith had a brief trial with Sheffield Wednesday and entered the licensed trade, running the Tavern Two in Colnebridge with his wife Judith. He also signed for Halifax Town shortly before the start of the 1977/78 season and quickly became a mainstay in Alan Ball Snr’s side. This continued when former teammate Jimmy Lawson took over as manager.

After two seasons at The Shay, Smith returned to Leeds Road in September 1979 as the club’s chief scout, with manager Mick Buxton bringing him onto the staff. He also became a regular in the club’s reserve side, playing in the Central League. Along with his scouting and playing duties, Smith would also coach the youth players.

This appointment completed the foursome of Mick Buxton (manager), John Haselden (assistant manager/physio), Jimmy Robson (reserve team coach) and Steve Smith (chief scout), who would oversee plenty of success during the next few years at Leeds Road. This began with winning the Fourth Division title in 1979/80 and continued in 1982/83 when Town secured automatic promotion to the Second Division, finishing third.

Having become a regular in the Central League side upon his arrival in 1979, Smith would remain in the second string well into the 1980s, playing his final game in 1983. His match fitness came in handy in November 1981 when Town, in the midst of an injury crisis, faced Workington in the 1st Round of the F.A. Cup. With no fit left-backs, Buxton called on Smith to fill in, so at the age of 35, he made his 381st appearance for Town, which saw him move up to 6th on the all-time appearances list, level with Bill McGarry (he is currently joint ninth on the list).

Away from the first team, there was also success for the youth team as Smith and Jimmy Robson coached them to the Northern Intermediate League title in 1984/85. They also finished runners-up in the N.I.L. Cup. That side included Julian Winter, Simon Trevitt, Paul France, Lee Martin, Graham Mitchell, Paul Wilson, Liam Robinson, Ian Wadsworth, Peter Butler and Carl Madrick, all of whom went on to play in the first team.

Smith was also in charge of the reserve side during much of the 1986/87 season, leading them to the top of the Central League by Christmas 1986 (they later won the title). At the same time, the first team were bottom of Division Two, and having struggled in the second tier for a couple of seasons, the club parted ways with long-serving manager Mick Buxton, sacking him just two days before Christmas.

After Buxton’s dismissal, Smith was placed in temporary charge of the first team until a replacement was found. He oversaw back-to-back victories over Christmas, with a 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers and a memorable 5-3 win over Bradford City at Leeds Road, plus two draws in his first four games.

Smith made it clear that he wanted the job permanently and following a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup with Norwich City, he got his wish and was appointed as the club’s permanent manager on January 13th, 1987. Upon his appointment, Smith said: “It's a great honour and I'm very proud, especially as I spent almost all my career as a player at Leeds Road.” He would also become (and remains to this day), the only Town manager to be born in Huddersfield.

Despite the initial results, Town began to struggle again and although they picked up some vital wins here and there, this was followed by a nine-match winless run (which included a club record of six successive draws) and were dragged back into the mire. With just three games remaining, Town found themselves in the bottom three and in a rather precarious position. Smith inspired his men to win three on the bounce and Town miraculously survived, finishing 17th and out of danger.

Sadly, there would be no such luck in the 1987/88 season as Town endured a nightmare start, failing to win any of their first 16 games, including 14 league games and two cup matches. After taking charge of 12 of those games, Smith resigned as manager on October 6th, 1987.

As per his contract, he reverted to his previous roles of chief scout and youth coach upon his resignation. Mel Booth of The Examiner praised Smith's resignation as being made with “dignity, honesty and by placing the best interests of the club”, and that sums it up. Smith had cited the pressures of the job when he resigned, and felt it was in the best interests of the club that he stepped aside. He immediately returned to his previous position of chief scout.

Smith remained at Leeds Road until the end of the season, departing in the summer of 1988 when new manager Eoin Hand brought in his own backroom staff. He had been at the club for 25 of the previous 27 years, serving as a player, chief scout, youth coach, reserve team coach, caretaker manager and manager.

After some time out of the game, Smith later joined Bradford City in April 1989, and enjoyed a long spell as youth development officer at Valley Parade, even having a brief spell in charge of the first team in 2001 after the departure of Jim Jefferies.

After a time working for the Premier League, Smith made a return to Town in April 2012 when he was appointed as Head of Academy Recruitment but after just over a year in the role, he stepped down in the summer of 2013 and continued in a scouting role.

Smith was later diagnosed with dementia, which was made public in September 2018. The following month, a Memory Walk was organised at Beaumont Park in Huddersfield to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society, where Smith was joined by former teammates Geoff Hutt, Roy Ellam, Dick Krzywicki, Terry Gray, Keith Hanvey and Mark Lillis, and a good number of Town supporters, showing the high esteem he was still held in by the fanbase.

No-one has served Huddersfield Town in as many capacities as Steve Smith, he is warmly regarded by those that watched him, played with him and played under him. He is quite simply one of the club’s greatest ever servants. May he rest in peace.

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