Thomas Smith was born on 5 April 1945 and was a vastly experienced defender, whom became a legend during his career in top flight football with Liverpool, earning the nickname “The Anfield Iron”.
‘Tommy’ as he was better known, joined the Swans after a short spell in the USA with Los Angeles Aztecs, after being released by Liverpool at the end of the 1977/78 season.
The same year, he was awarded the MBE for his services to football.
The former Liverpool and England schoolboy international joined the ground staff at Anfield in May 1960 after leaving school, and made his first U-23 appearance for England against Czechoslovakia in 1965, making his only full international appearance at Wembley against Wales in May 1971.
Tommy was a member of the England team that won the Junior World Cup in 1963 playing alongside illustrious names Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Len Badger, Jon Sammels, John Sissons and Lew Chatterly.
Weighing in at more than 13 stone, despite his 5ft 10in frame, his no-nonsense approach to the beautiful game, earned him a reputation as a hard man, with Bill Shankly once saying of him – “Tommy Smith wasn’t born, he was quarried.”
Even at the age of 33, he was as totally competitive a player as ever, a trait that was highly evident when Swansea City entertained Tottenham Hotspur at the Vetch Field in a Second Round League Cup tie in September 1978.
Within the first couple of minutes, Spurs’ Osvaldo Ardiles, a recent acquisition from Argentina and World Cup winner, had been tackled by the Anfield Iron and had to leave the field on a stretcher.
His chest-high tackle on Ardiles, who was playing his first game on British soil, literally almost broke the Argentine in two!
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ardiles discussed the tackle with Spurs favourite Glen Hoddle.
‘Tommy Smith’s playing for Swansea and he’s near the end of his career,’ says Hoddle. Ossie had a little bit of English by now, so we’re saying, “Ossie! Ossie! Tommy Smith. No4. Bad man, tackle”. And Ossie was, ‘Ah, no problem. Hard men in Argentina. Daniel Passarella’. I remember him saying that. And we’re all going, “Yeah, but this is different”.’
Ardiles interjects. ‘I wish I had been better at English at the time so I could understand…’ Hoddle adds: ‘So 20 minutes into the game, Ossie’s going past me on a stretcher and I remember Johnny Pratt shouting, “Ossie! Tommy Smith! Yeah? Bad man”.’
Ardiles pulls a face. ‘I was like, “Welcome to England! Ha, ha, ha”.’
Having been given a free transfer by Liverpool, having played 638 times for the club, he was signed by Swansea City manager John Toshack during the Summer of 1978.
Within weeks he was reunited with his former Liverpool colleague Ian Callaghan, with both players making telling contributions through the season as the club gained a second consecutive promotion, this time from Division Three.
Smith was appointed club captain at the Vetch Field shortly after his arrival.
He struggled at times through the season with knee problems and sadly had to retire shortly before the start of the 1979/80 season with the Swans.
During his one season at the Vetch, Tommy Smith made 43 appearances during the 1978-79 campaign, scoring two goals, both in the same game at the Vetch Field against Hull City.
His club honours obtained with Liverpool included winning the first division championship in 1966, 1973, 1976 and 1977, FA Cup Winner in 1965 and 1974, European Cup Winner in 1977 (scoring the winner against Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome in what was his 600th appearance for Liverpool), UEFA Cup in 1973 and 1976, Charity Shield Winner in 1965, 1966 and 1974, and European Super Cup winner in 1977.
After leaving the Vetch Field shortly after the announcement of his retirement as a player, had a short spell as manager of Caernarfon town, he returned to Anfield, where he was employed for a period on the coaching staff.
Smith had a brief spell as a youth coach at Liverpool before turning from the football field to the Anfield press box, writing a weekly column for the Liverpool Echo for 35 years and working on local radio.
In 1980 he took over the lease of the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool as a business venture, but sold it a few years later, having made little in the way of profit.
In 2007 he suffered a heart attack, and in his later years was painfully afflicted by crippling rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2014 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away on 12 April 2019, aged 74.
The ‘Swansea Town/City Players A-Y’ book written by Colin Jones was an excellent reference guide for the information contained on this page. The information was reproduced with the kind permission of Colin.