Throughout this series we’ve had close calls and we’ve had players who absolutely had to make the team. There was never any question of Trevor Peake not being there, possibly the same could be said of Glenn Cockerill. If Dave Smith doesn’t make the Stacey West XI, I’ll wear a Grimsby Town scarf to the first home game of next season. Hell, I’ll even wear it away.
405 starts, 14 from the bench. 59 goal in all competitions, 52 in the league. Only Tony Emery and Grant Brown have appeared more time for Lincoln City, making Dave Smith a bona fide legend.
Dave was a left-sided wide man, starting out as the old style ‘outside left’ before becoming perhaps the finest left winger the club has ever seen. His early career indicated his promise, he had been on the books of Manchester United for a short time and won a place in the England Schools squad. He appeared for his country in a 4-1 victory against Northern Ireland in May 1963. Sadly, he suffered badly torn ankle ligaments that put him out of action for six months and cost him the chance of any further caps. He signed for his home-town club Middlesbrough and spent four seasons at Ayresome Park, but found his first team chances limited.
He made his debut against Chelsea in the FA Cup, but couldn’t force himself into the reckoning and eventually decided to join City in the summer of 1968. Manager Ron Gray, born in North Shields himself, had got wind he might be able to add the player to his squad and pounced. Little did he know he was bringing a player to the side who would remain for a decade and become one of the club’s all time legends. He had a decent summer did Mr Gray, he also signed a full back from Grimsby called Taylor. The two went on to make their debut on the same day, one scoring and the other providing a goal as Notts County were thrashed 5-0. After the dismal 1960’s it was the start of a turnaround, albeit a long-winded one. City finished eighth that season, the new left-sided player scoring nine goals, the first of which came at Sincil Bank as Grimsby were beaten 3-0.
Smith was the first of the famous 1975/76 team to take his place, Taylor obviously moved into the manager’s office and his left-sided player slowly had a side built around him. In that Championship winning year, Smith missed only one game and scored the memorable 100th League goal of the season in the 3-0 win at Stockport County.
Willie Bell has a lot to answer for, more than anybody reading this under the age of 40 will know, and in the summer of 1978 it was him who surprisingly released the Imps stalwart. Given that Bell spent most of that summer setting himself up as some sort of religious pastor in the USA before resigning in October, it is a surprise he found time to let the City legend go. sadly, he did. Smith had a testimonial game against Watford at Sincil Bank early the following season, finishing his career with a couple of years at Rotherham United.
Smith still lives locally and, whenever I ask my Dad about the most exciting winger he’s ever seen, he’ll always tell me ‘Dave Smith’. At a recent Imps dinner, Dave turned up as a guest with Mick Harford and Glenn Cockerill the guest speakers. Instead of focusing on the main event, Dad kept nudging me and saying ‘there’s Dave Smith, look, it’s Dave Smith’ as he became increasingly inebriated. Eventually, he met his hero, a softly spoken man who looks exactly the same today as he does in the pictures on this article.
Dave Smith. When you’re voting, make sure you put a tick in his box.