A detailed profile of Bobby Smith
Courtesy of co-author of The Golden Boot - Mark Metcalf
Scored 36 goals (out of 93) 18 home, 18 away
Runner-up: Tommy Thompson (Preston North End) 34 goals
Spurs finished third
Scored 32 goals (out of 85) 22 home, 10 away.
Joint top with Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea)
Spurs finished 18th
When it came to toughness, nobody surpassed flint-hard Bobby Smith. He was burly, robust, brave, had a strong right-foot shot, could head a ball with power and above all, he was never afraid to go in where it hurt, often taking a heavy knock to ankle, shin, knee, thigh, back and head!
Born in Lingdale near Middlesbrough on 22 February 1933, he played for Redcar Boys’ Club and Redcar United before joining Chelsea on schoolboy forms in 1947, taking amateur status in 1949 and turning professional in May 1950. He spent the next five-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge during which time he scored 30 goals in 86 senior appearances, acting as deputy to Roy Bentley for a number of seasons.
In December 1955, Tottenham’s manager Jimmy Anderson paid £18,000 for Smith. When he arrived at White Hart Lane, Spurs lay just one place off the bottom of the First Division table, but Smith scored the necessary goals to dispel the threat of relegation and thereafter went on to play a major role in the London club’s glory years.
Initially Smith played inside-left with Len Duquemin leading the attack with Johnny Brooks on the right and in 1955-56 he scored 10 vital League goals and, after switching to centre-forward, he followed up in 1956-57 with another 18 before netting 36 in 1957-58 to equal Ted Harper’s 1930-31 club record for most in a season.
By now he had alongside him Tommy Harmer who was one of the finest passers of the ball in the English game and could split open the tightest of defences with one magical touch! Spurs also had some exceptionally fine wingers in Terry Medwin, George Robb and Terry Dyson with Cliff Jones ready in waiting.
Smith scored twice in the first four games of the season, both to no avail as Spurs lost 5-1 at Portsmouth and 3-1 at Newcastle. He was injured in the return game with Pompey and missed the next three matches before returning for the home clash with Birmingham City in mid-September.
Spurs crushed Blues 7-1 but amazing Smith failed to get on the scoresheet, Bobby Stokes weighing in with a five-timer!
However, three days later Smith scored twice in a 4-2 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, giving the Owls’ defence a tough time as he bustled and barged his way into the penalty-area at every opportunity.
Absent from the next game (v. Manchester City) Smith was completely out of sorts in a 4-0 defeat by Wolves at Molineux and he didn’t fare much better in the next game which Spurs lost 4-3 at home to Nottingham Forest. But after netting a ‘real beauty’ in a 3-1 North London derby win over Arsenal, he never really looked back.
He found the net at Bolton (lost 3-2), did likewise in successive home wins over Leeds United (2-0) and Everton (3-1) and struck a decisive blow to earn a point at Villa Park (1-1).
He had a few off days but was at his brilliant best at Old Trafford on 30 November, grabbing a hat-trick in an excellent 4-3 victory. This was his first treble for Spurs and in fact he could well have scored five or six goals had not United’s ‘keeper David Gaskell been in such good form.
Smith weighed in with five goals during December, scoring braces in wins at Blackpool (2-0) and against his former club Chelsea (4-2) as well as sliding in the winner to beat champions-elect Wolves at White Hart Lane in front of almost 59,000 spectators.
On target twice in a 3rd round FA Cup-tie v. Leicester City (won 4-0), Spurs went out in the next round and, in fact, January was a disappointing month with only two League games being played, Smith scoring in a 3-3 home draw with Preston but having a poor game in a 2-0 defeat at Burnley.
On 8 February he did what very few players have done over the years – he scored a hat-trick against the other Manchester club, City, as Spurs cruised to a 5-1 home win, gaining sweet revenge for a same score drubbing at Maine Road earlier in the season.
Two weeks later Smith netted twice in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Highbury, bagged both goals in a 2-1 win at Leeds and struck his third hat-trick of the season in a 4-1 home win over Bolton.
At the end of March he was rampant against Aston Villa and gave Jimmy Dugdale a roasting as he scored four times in a splendid 6-2 victory. A week later he notched a couple in a 4-3 win at Everton and ended the season with singles in 3-1 and 2-1 wins over Leicester City (away) and Blackpool (home).
Spurs, who scored a total of 93 League goals in the season, finished third in the First Division – a massive 13 points behind Wolves and eight adrift of runner’s-up Preston.
In 1958-59, Smith was once again the leading scorer in top flight football, sharing the honour this time with Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea), both players notching 32 League goals. In fact, Smith and Greaves had been together briefly at Stamford Bridge (1955) and would team up again when Greaves joined Spurs in 1961.
Scorer of one goal in each of the first two games – both defeats at the hands of Blackpool at home (2-3) and Chelsea away (2-4), he was off target in the next three before netting in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest. At this juncture Spurs were not playing well. In fact, they won only two of their first ten League games and were well down the table.
After netting twice in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United in front of 62,277 fans at Old Trafford and banging in the opener in a 2-1 home win over Wolves, Smith missed two sitters and hit the woodwork in a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth before scoring four times in a record 10-4 home victory over Everton on 11 October.
On the morning of the Everton game it was announced that Bill Nicholson had been appointed as Spurs’ new manager – and in the afternoon he looked on as the team selected by his predecessor, Jimmy Anderson, walloped the Merseysiders in front of almost 38,000 spectators at White Hart Lane.
The goals started to flow as early as the third minute when Alf Stokes fired Spurs ahead. Everton equalised through Jimmy Harris on 11 minutes and on the quarter-of-an-hour mark Smith rose unchallenged to nod home Tommy Harmer’s delightful cross to make it 2-1 before Danny Blanchflower sent George Robb through to score a third for Spurs.
In the 31st minute outside-right Terry Medwin flew down past Bramwell and his cross was met square on by Smith (4-1). Medwin then found space to score twice before half-time to virtually see off the Merseysiders at 6-1.
Harris reduced the deficit soon after the break, but Blanchflower quickly set up Smith who completed his hat-trick with a great finish.... 7-2 to Spurs. There was a lull in proceedings between the 60th and 80th minutes before the game exploded into life once again. Harmer belted in a rocket from 15 yards (8-2)... Harris replied (8-3), Smith put away Stokes’s corner (9-3), Bobby Collins made it 9-4 and the injured Johnny Ryden nipped in with a later tenth to seal a memorable victory.
Smith maintained his form by scoring in each of the next four matches – a 4-3 victory at Leicester, a 2-3 home defeat by Leeds, a 1-5 drubbing at Manchester City and a 1-1 draw with Bolton at White Hart Lane. He then struggled in the 2-1 win at Luton and the 4-0 home reverse against Birmingham before scoring twice in a seven-goal thriller at West Bromwich which Spurs lost 4-3.
Smith scored in two of the five League games played in December – in 2-1 defeats by Preston and West Ham - before starting the New Year with a smart effort in a 3-1 victory over Blackburn. He then netted in successive FA Cup-ties against West Ham (won 2-0) and Newport County (won 4-1), scored in a disappointing 4-1 home defeat by Arsenal and struck twice in a hard-earned 4-4 home draw with Portsmouth towards the end of February but was then sidelined for three games at the start of March.
Returning for the home visit of Manchester City, he scored in a 3-1 win, netted again six days later when Aston Villa were beaten 3-2 and was on target in the 3-0 win over FA Cup finalists Luton Town during the first week of April.
He then went out and ended the season in style... grabbing both goals in the 2-2 draw with Burnley (one a fierce drive from outside the area), cracked in his second four-timer of the campaign when West Brom were battered 5-0 on a barren White Hart Lane pitch (he could have had six or seven in this one-sided game if Baggies’ goalkeeper Ray Potter had not been at his brilliant best) and netted the opener in a last-day 2-2 draw at Preston.
After two wonderful campaigns, during which time he scored 73 goals in competitive football and 12 more in friendlies, Smith followed up in 1959-60 with another 25 in the First Division, plus five more in the FA Cup, four of which came in a 13-2 fourth round replay victory over Crewe Alexandra.
He then added 33 more to his tally in 1960-61 (28 League, 5 FA Cup) when, of course, Spurs completed the double. After that he struggled with injury problems for long periods and managed only 27 more League goals in the next three seasons before transferring to Brighton & Hove Albion for £5,000 in May 1964. His record with Spurs was superb – 208 goals in 317 first-class appearances. He gained League, European Cup-winner’s Cup and two FA Cup winner’s medals, scoring in the 1961 final against Leicester and against Burnley a year later with his socks rolled down to his ankles. He also won 15 England caps, scoring 13 goals including two in the 9-3 drubbing of Scotland at Wembley in April 1961.
Smith, who helped Brighton win the Fourth Division championship in 1965, remained at The Goldstone Ground until October 1965 when he moved to Hastings United, later assisting Leyton Orient (on trial) and Banbury United. He retired in May 1969 to become a painter and decorator and as the years passed by he became a cripple, the legacy of his footballing career. Sadly Smith died after a short illness in Enfield, Middlesex on 18 September 2010.
Shortly after his death, the Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp paid tribute to Bobby Smith as both a player and a person. "I loved Bobby. A proper character and what a player," said Redknapp.
"He was a larger-than-life character and I am sorry to see him go. I remember seeing him terrorize goalkeepers in those days of European football, battering the ball into the back of the net, but not only that, he could play as well. He was a real top centre-forward and a great, great character."
· Read the Spurs Odyssey Bobby Smith obituary here.
· Read the "Golden Boot" extract on Jimmy Greaves here.
· Brian Judson's excellent series on the Spurs Double Season can be read here.
· Norman Giller's series on "The Golden Double"
Top of page | Back to Features