Jim Smith (footballer, born 1940)

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Jim Smith
Smith in 2006
Personal information
Full name James Michael Smith
Date of birth (1940-10-17)17 October 1940
Place of birth Sheffield, England
Date of death 10 December 2019(2019-12-10) (aged 79)
Position(s) Wing half
Youth career
1957–1959 Sheffield United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1959–1961 Sheffield United 0 (0)
1961–1965 Aldershot 74 (1)
1965–1968 Halifax Town 113 (7)
1968–1969 Lincoln City 54 (0)
1969–1972 Boston United 123 (13[2][3][4])
1972–1973 Colchester United 8 (0)
Total 372 (8)
Teams managed
1969–1972 Boston United (player-manager)
1972–1975 Colchester United (player-manager)
1975–1978 Blackburn Rovers
1978–1982 Birmingham City
1982–1985 Oxford United
1985–1988 Queens Park Rangers
1988–1991 Newcastle United
1991–1995 Portsmouth
1995–2001 Derby County
2002 Coventry City (assistant manager)
2002–2004 Portsmouth (assistant manager)
2004–2005 Southampton (assistant manager)
2006–2007 Oxford United
2008 Oxford United (caretaker)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

James Michael Smith (17 October 1940 – 10 December 2019) was an English footballer and manager. As a player, he made 249 appearances in the Fourth Division of The Football League, representing Aldershot, Halifax Town, Lincoln City and Colchester United, and played for three-and-a-half years for Boston United of the Northern Premier League. He began a long managerial career with Boston United, and went on to take charge of top division clubs such as Birmingham City and Newcastle United. Smith served as a member of the board of directors of Oxford United for three years from 2006–09. He served as the League Managers' Association's chief executive and was inducted into their Hall of Fame for managing over 1000 matches.[5] He was nicknamed "The Bald Eagle".[6]

Playing career[edit]

Smith was born in Sheffield and grew up a Sheffield Wednesday supporter,[7] but began his playing career in 1957 when he signed for Sheffield United as an amateur, and turned professional with the club two years later. After failing to break into the first team he was transferred to Aldershot for the 1961–62 season.[8]

At the beginning of the 1965–66 season, after scoring one goal in 74 league appearances, Smith left Aldershot to join Halifax Town. He made 113 league starts for Halifax, scoring seven goals, before moving to Lincoln City in 1968. After just over a year at Lincoln in which he made 54 appearances Smith signed for non-league club Boston United as player-manager;[8][9] as player, he went on to make nearly 200 appearances for the club in all competitions.[2]

Management career[edit]

A good start to his managerial career at Boston – the club finished in the top four of the Northern Premier League in each of his first three seasons, he led them to the third round proper of the 1972 FA Cup,[10] and in his fourth season, was 40 games into a run of 51 consecutive league games unbeaten,[11] a British record at professional level[12] – led to Colchester United offering Smith the position of manager in October 1972. In his autobiography, Smith says that he thought he got the job on the basis that he told the directors that he thought the team were 'bloody awful' when watching a game with them, and they respected his honesty.[13] He retained his playing registration for that season, but in 1973–74, he retired from playing and guided Colchester to promotion from the Football League Fourth Division.[14]

In 1975, he quit the club to join Blackburn Rovers, newly promoted to the Second Division.[15]

He led Blackburn through one season of survival, one of establishment and was well into a promotion push in his third season when he left for First Division Birmingham City in March 1978 after Sir Alf Ramsey's resignation.[15][16]

Birmingham were relegated from the First Division in Smith's first full season in charge, but he rebuilt the team, allowing many of the players who had won promotion in 1972 to leave, most notably making Trevor Francis the first £1 million player, a move which the board had not allowed Ramsey to make,[16] and bringing in experienced players and bringing through promising youngsters.[17]

Smith guided Birmingham back into the top flight the next season, and maintained them in mid-table in 1981. In early 1982, Ron Saunders walked out on Aston Villa, the club he had led to the League title the previous season; Birmingham promptly sacked Smith and appointed Saunders.[8][18] In his book, Smith reckons the decision by Birmingham to sack him was taken on the coach journey home from the final game of the season.[13]

A few weeks later, Smith joined Oxford United as manager. He led them to the Third Division championship in 1984. The next year they were again promoted, reaching the top flight for the first time in their history, as Oxford won the Second Division championship.[8] Despite this spectacular success, chairman Robert Maxwell failed to improve Smith's contract, which led to his resignation from Oxford to take the job of manager at Queens Park Rangers.[19]

In his first year at QPR, Smith took the club to the League Cup final, where they lost 3–0 to his former club Oxford United. Smith continued to manage QPR until December 1988 when he left to become manager of Newcastle United.[20] Newcastle finished bottom of the First Division in 1989; they came close to making an immediate return, finishing third in the league but losing 2–0 in the playoff semi-final to local rivals Sunderland at St James' Park.[21] With no prospect of promotion by March 1991, Smith resigned amid a boardroom power struggle at the club.[22][23]

He had a spell as coach at Middlesbrough under Colin Todd before accepting the appointment as manager of Portsmouth in the summer of 1991.[8] He had a fairly successful reign at Fratton Park for four years, including reaching the FA Cup semi-finals in 1992, where they took Liverpool to a replay before losing on penalties after extra time. A year later, a successful season in the league meant that they missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League only on goal difference and then losing in the playoffs.[24] Key players including Darren Anderton and Guy Whittingham were sold, and there was no money for adequate replacements. Smith was sacked in January 1995 after a decline in form left them struggling at the wrong end of Division One.[25]

Smith became chief executive of the League Managers' Association in 1995, but returned to club management that summer with Derby County.[26]

He brought in Steve McClaren as first-team coach, and in their first full season they guided Derby to runners-up spot in Division One and promotion to the Premier League.[6] Derby finished in the top half of the table for their first three seasons in the top flight, but after two seasons where relegation was only narrowly avoided, Smith was offered, and refused, the post of Director of Football. He resigned in October 2001, to be replaced by Colin Todd.[27] Derby had spent 5 consecutive seasons in the top flight under Jim Smith.[28]

In January 2002, Smith was appointed assistant manager at Coventry City, working alongside Roland Nilsson.[29] Smith and Nilsson were sacked three months later, after presiding over performances described as "totally unacceptable" and failing to achieve a playoff place.[30] Later that year, Harry Redknapp appointed Smith as his assistant at former club Portsmouth.[31] Smith helped Redknapp win the Division One title at the first attempt in 2002–03,[32] and played his part as the club established itself in the Premier League. In November 2004, both Smith and Redknapp resigned from Portsmouth after the appointment of a Director of Football.[33] Redknapp became the manager of Southampton two weeks later, and after rejecting the position of chief scout, Smith was appointed his assistant.[34] As part of a "cost-cutting exercise" following Southampton's relegation from the Premier League, Smith's initial six-month contract was not extended.[35]

After nearly a year out of football, Smith returned to front-line management in March 2006 as manager of Oxford United for the second time, and was also given a seat on the board of directors.[19][36]

He failed to stave off relegation to the Conference National, but they came close to an immediate return to the Football League, finishing second and losing on penalties in the 2006–07 play-off semi-final.[37] In November 2007, after a poor start to the season, Smith decided it was time to "put the interests of the club before his own and ... step down as manager and concentrate on his director's role full-time".[38]

Following the sacking of Darren Patterson in November 2008, Smith took over as caretaker manager; the team remained unbeaten for the few weeks until Chris Wilder's appointment.[39] Smith stepped down from the board in 2009.[40]

Career statistics[edit]

Managerial statistics[edit]

Team From To Record Notes
G W L D Win %
Boston United (player-manager) 9 August 1969 10 May 1972 197 107 39 51 54.31 [41][42][43]
Colchester United (player-manager) 1 October 1972 20 June 1975 127 49 44 34 38.58
Blackburn Rovers 20 June 1975 12 March 1978 114 41 41 32 35.96
Birmingham City 12 March 1978 15 February 1982 182 59 73 50 32.41
Oxford United 1 March 1982 11 June 1985 167 89 36 42 53.29 [1]
Queens Park Rangers 11 June 1985 4 December 1988 167 67 62 38 40.11
Newcastle United 4 December 1988 26 March 1991 121 44 39 38 36.36
Portsmouth 1 June 1991 1 February 1995 199 81 64 54 40.70
Derby County 15 June 1995 7 October 2001 281 99 101 81 35.23
Oxford United 22 March 2006 1 November 2007 82 34 26 22 41.46
Oxford United (caretaker) 30 November 2008 21 December 2008 4 2 0 2 50.00
Total 1,475 577 495 403 39.12



Boston United[edit]

  • Eastern Professional Floodlit Cup: 1971–72[44]

Colchester United[edit]

Birmingham City[edit]

Oxford United[edit]

Derby County[edit]



Smith died on 10 December 2019 at the age of 79.[46]


  1. ^ a b "Jim Smith". Rage Online. Archived from the original on 29 November 2004. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Season 1969/70 – Statistics". Boston United FC. Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Season 1970/71 – Statistics". Boston United FC. Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Season 1971/72 – Statistics". Boston United FC. Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  5. ^ "English Managerial Stalwart Jim Smith Dies at 79". The New York Times. 10 December 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b Hodges, Vicki (4 May 2006). "Jim Smith backs protege McClaren". BBC Sport. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  7. ^ "Francis, Smith and Palmer lead Owls job chase". The Guardian. London, UK. 17 October 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e Matthews, Tony (1995). Birmingham City: A Complete Record. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-85983-010-9.
  9. ^ "Jim Smith profile". UK A–Z Transfers. Neil Brown. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Pilgrims Progress". Boston United FC. Ken Fox. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  11. ^ "Boston United Roll Call". Boston United FC. Ken Fox. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  12. ^ May, John (29 April 2002). "More than a feeling for Boston". BBC Sport. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  13. ^ a b Smith, Jim; Cass, Bob (2000). Jim Smith: The Autobiography: It's Only A Game. Andre Deutsch Ltd. ISBN 978-0233998039.
  14. ^ "The U's History: The 70s". Colchester United F.C. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  15. ^ a b "1975–84: The bald eagle has landed". Blackburn Rovers F.C. 2 July 2007. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  16. ^ a b "Francis issue caused Sir Alf to quit". The Times. 9 March 1978. p. 14. Sir Alf said he told the board two weeks ago that he intended to quit and sever his links with the club. ... He said at a board meeting on 20 February he recommended both Francis and the defender, Joe Gallagher, should be transfer listed. The board agreed but three days later changed their minds about Francis. Sir Alf said he then decided to opt out because of the board's policy.
  17. ^ Matthews, Complete Record. pp. 39–41
  18. ^ Jones, Stuart (19 February 1982). "Villa's loss becomes Birmingham's gain". The Times. p. 20.
  19. ^ a b Winter, Henry (24 March 2006). "Bald Eagle back to roost at his favourite manor". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  20. ^ "A potted history of QPR (1882–2009)". Queens Park Rangers F.C. 9 April 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  21. ^ "Newcastle 1989/1990 results and fixtures". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  22. ^ Taylor, Louise (27 March 1991). "Smith resigns from Newcastle" (reprint). The Times. NewsBank. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  23. ^ "Jim Smith (1988–91)". Newcastle United F.C. Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  24. ^ Cross, Jordan (8 February 2017). "Pompey's Boys of '93 debunk myth stars couldn't play now". The Portsmouth News. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  25. ^ "1990s: Flattering to deceive". Portsmouth F.C. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  26. ^ "Jim Smith factfile". The Guardian. 8 October 2001. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  27. ^ Howland, Andy. "Past Managers". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  28. ^ "Jim Smith: Harry Redknapp hails ex-Oxford, Portsmouth & Derby boss as a 'great football man'". BBC Sport. 11 December 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  29. ^ Pierson, Mark (4 January 2002). "Smith joins Coventry to assist Nilsson". The Independent. London, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  30. ^ "Coventry sack Nilsson and Smith". BBC Sport. 16 April 2002. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  31. ^ "Redknapp welcomes Smith". BBC Sport. 27 June 2002. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  32. ^ "Redknapp revels in Pompey party". BBC Sport. 15 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  33. ^ Sanghera, Mandeep (24 November 2004). "For whom the chimes toll". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  34. ^ Chesterton, George (17 December 2004). "Southampton offer Smith assistant role". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  35. ^ Szczepanik, Nick (24 May 2005). "Redknapp suffers cruellest cut as Smith is shown the exit". The Times. London, UK. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  36. ^ Shail, Mark (23 March 2006). "Bald Eagle's back in business at Oxford – and there's a key role at the Kassam for Gemmill too". Professional Footballers' Association. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  37. ^ Crabtree, David; Brunt, Heather Jan; Williams, Chris (5 February 2009). "A history of Oxford United Football Club". Oxford United F.C. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  38. ^ "FOOTBALL: Jim Smith steps down as manager". Oxford Mail. 9 November 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  39. ^ "Wilder is new Oxford United boss". BBC Sport. 21 December 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  40. ^ "Forum report". Oxford United F.C. 6 April 2009. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  41. ^ "Boston United's Season 1969/70". Boston United Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  42. ^ "Boston United's Season 1970/1". Boston United Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  43. ^ "Boston United's Season 1971/2". Boston United Ken Fox. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  44. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Jim; Cass, Bob (2002). Jim Smith: It's Only a Game. Andre Deutsch. ISBN 0233050558.
  45. ^ "Manager profile: Jim Smith". Premier League. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  46. ^ Pritchard, Richard (10 December 2019). "Oxford United legend Jim Smith dies aged 79". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 10 December 2019.

External links[edit]