Joseph (Joe) Smith was born in Dudley on 25th June 1889. A talented centre-forward, Smith played for Newcastle St Luke's in the Staffordshire League before joining Bolton Wanderers in 1908. He made his league debut against West Bromwich Albion in April 1909. He became a regular in the side in 1910-11 season.
A prolific goalscorer, Smith won his first international cap against Ireland on 15th February 1913. The England team that day included Bob Crompton, Charlie Buchan, Jackie Mordue and George Wall. England won the game 2-1. Smith scored his first goal for his country against Wales on 16th March 1914. He also played against Scotland the following month.
Smith's football career was interrupted by the First World War. He served in the Royal Air Force but still managed to score 48 goals in 51 wartime games. At the end of the war he returned to Bolton Wanderers and on 1920, he won his last international cap against Wales on 15th March 1920.
Smith formed a great partnership with David Jack. In the 1920-21 season Joe Smith's goals helped Bolton Wanderers finish in 3rd place in the First Division of the Football League. Smith scored a club record of 38 goals, this included hat-tricks against Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle United.
Bolton Wanderers enjoyed a good FA Cup run in the 1922-23 season. They beat Leeds United (3-1), Huddersfield Town (1-0), Charlton Athletic (1-0) and Sheffield United (1-0) to reach the first cup final to be held at Wembley Stadium.
The Football Association had no idea that so many people wanted to see the final. It is estimated that over 240,000 people entered the ground, with another 60,000 locked outside. As the stadium had a 127,000 capacity, the crowds overflowed onto the pitch as there was no room on the terraces.
In the second minute David Jack intercepted a clearance from Jack Young. "Jack feinted to pass out to Butler; when the pass looked as good as made, he dribbled inside to the left, went through the West Ham United defence at a great pace and scored from close in with a hard high shot into the right-hand corner of the net."
Three minutes later, Dick Pym, the Bolton goalkeeper, missed a corner-kick from Jimmy Ruffell and the usually reliable Vic Watson, blasted the ball over the crossbar. The Times journalist covering the game wrote: "Pym, misjudging a perfectly taken corner by Ruffell, came out of goal and missed the ball. The ball came to Watson, who had an open goal yawning only a few yards in front of him. How he managed to kick the ball over the cross-bar instead of into the net one cannot imagine; if a player tried to do it, the odds against him would be generous. Watson, however, did fail to score."
Soon afterwards West Ham United had another chance when Dick Richards finished off a brilliant dribble with a clever shot that Dick Pym managed to save. Joe Smith then appeared to scored from a clever centre from Billy Butler but was ruled offside. Bolton were the better team in the first-half and the East Ham Echo reported that this was "because they were more experienced and better fitted temperamentally to stand the strains of the extraordinary conditions."
The teams did not leave the field at half-time but crossed over and resumed play after a five-rninutes' interval. West Ham United began the second half well and Vic Watson just failed to convert a cross from George Kay.
In the 54th minute Joe Smith received a pass from Ted Vizard and volleyed against the underside of the bar. The referee ruled that it had crossed the line, before rebounding back into play. Bolton Wanderers had won the game 2-0.
Bolton Wanderers also had another good cup run in the 1925-26 season. The club beat Bournemouth (6-2), South Shields (2-0), Nottingham Forest (1-0) and Swansea City (3-0) to reach the final against Manchester City. Bolton won the game 1-0.
After scoring 277 goals in 492 games, Smith joined Stockport County in March 1927 for £1,000. Over the next two years he scored 61 goals in 69 games.
Smith was appointed manager of Reading on 1st July 1931. He guided the Third Division South side to 2nd place in the 1931-32 season. Over the next three seasons the club finished 4th (1932-33), 3rd (1933-34) and 2nd (1934-35).
In August 1935, Smith became manager of Blackpool. In only his second season he helped the club win promotion to the First Division. He finished in mid-table in the two remaining seasons before the Second World War.
On 10th May, 1947, Smith paid £11,500 for Stanley Matthews. This was a large sum of money to pay for someone aged 32 and considered past his best. He joined a team that included Hughie Kelly, Stan Mortensen, Harry Johnson and Bill Perry.
That season Blackpool beat Chester (4-0), Colchester United (5-0), Fulham (2-0) to play Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final at Villa Park. Spurs were leading 1-0 until four minutes from time when Stan Mortensen received a pass from Stanley Matthews. "Then, with the three Spurs men still trying to dispossess me, I hit the ball diagonally across the goal. Luckily I kept it on the ground, and it beat Ditchburn to go into goal just inside the far post." Mortensen scored two more goals in extra-time and therefore reached the final of the FA Cup for the first time.
Blackpool took an early lead in the final at Wembley. Manchester United equalized soon afterwards but Stan Mortensen converted a Hughie Kelly pass to make in 2-1. Mortensen had become the first player in history to score in every round of the FA Cup. However, United came back very strongly in the second-half to win the game 4-2.
In the 1950-51 season Blackpool finished in 3rd place in the First Division of the Football League. Blackpool beat Stockport County (2-1), Mansfield Town (2-0), Fulham (1-0) and Birmingham City (2-1) to reach the final of the FA Cup. Newcastle United won the game 2-0.
Stan Mortensen was very complimentary about Smith's management style: "Joe has one great virtue outstanding among all his others - and they are many. He is just about the best loser and winner in football. If we win he is never up in the air and dreaming of championships; and if we lose, he is quick to give consolation, and never gets down in the mouth. Joe has been so long in the game as player and manager that he knows full well that one defeat doesn't mean relegation, any more than one win heralds the winning of the Cup or League."
Stanley Matthews was another player who enjoyed playing under Joe Smith: "He was, as I have said so often, a wily old bird. Never a great tactician, or even a reasonable one, he was nevertheless the best manager I ever had the privilege to play for. Joe brought out the best in me because he allowed me to play my natural game. I will always be grateful for his support and belief, especially when I look back to those moments when situations contrived to make me doubt myself and my own ability... Joe was a great psychologist who could kid an average player into believing and performing as a good one, and a good player as a very good one. He signed some very good players, and that's the hardest part of a manager's job. Joe did it time and again. As I have said before, a manager doesn't have to tell good players what to do, they know."
In the 1952-53 season Blackpool beat Huddersfield Town (1-0), Southampton (2-1), Arsenal (2-1) and Tottenham Hotspur (2-1) to reach the FA Cup final for the third time in five years. Cyril Robinson claimed that Joe Smith "was never very tactical, he was very blunt with his instructions". According to Stanley Matthews he said: "Go out and enjoy yourselves. Be the players I know you are and we'll be all right."
Cyril Robinson was later interviewed about the match: "We kicked off and within a couple of minutes we had a goal scored against us. That's about the worst thing that could happen. Gradually we got some passes together, got Stan Matthews on the ball and Mortensen got the equaliser, but they went back ahead straight away."
Stanley Matthews wrote in his autobiography that: "At half-time we sipped our tea and listened to Joe. He wasn't panicking. He didn't rant and rave and he didn't berate anyone. He simply told us to keep playing our normal game." Harry Johnson, the captain, told the defence to "be more compact and tighter as a unit." He also added: "Eddie (Shinwell), Tommy (Garrett), Cyril (Robinson) and me, we will deal with the rough and tumble and win the ball. You lot who can play, do your bit."
Despite the team-talk Bolton Wanderers took a 3-1 lead early in the second-half. Robinson commented: "It looked hopeless then, I was thinking to myself at least I've been to Wembley." Then Stan Mortensen scored from a Stanley Matthews cross. According to Matthews: "although under pressure from two Bolton defenders who contrived to whack him from either side as he slid in, his determination was total and he managed to toe poke the ball off the inside of the post and into the net."
In the 88th minute a Bolton defender conceded a free kick some 20 yards from goal. Stan Mortensen took the kick and according to Robinson: "I've never seen one taken as well. It flew, you couldn't see the ball on the way to the net." Matthews added that "such was the power and accuracy behind Morty's effort, Hanson in the Bolton goal hardly moved a muscle."
The score was now 3-3 and the game was expected to go into extra-time. In his autobiography, Stanley Matthews described what happened next: "A minute of injury time remained... Ernie Taylor, who had not stopped running throughout the match, picked up a long throw from George Farm, rounded Langton and, as he had done like clockwork through the second half, found me wide on the right. I took off for what I knew would be one final run to the byline. Three Bolton players closed in, I jinked past Ralph Banks and out of the corner of my eye noticed Barrass coming in quick for the kill. They had forced me to the line and it was pure instinct that I pulled the ball back to where experience told me Morty would be. In making the cross I slipped on the greasy turf and, as I fell, my heart and hopes fell also. I looked across and saw that Morty, far from being where I expected him to be, had peeled away to the far post. We could read each other like books. For five years we'd had this understanding. He knew exactly where I d put the ball. Now, in this game of all games, he wasn't there. This was our last chance, what on earth was he doing? Racing up from deep into the space was Bill Perry."
Stanley Matthews added that Perry "coolly and calmly stroked the ball wide of Hanson and Johnny Ball on the goalline and into the corner of the net." Bill Perry admitted: "I had to hook it a bit. Morty said he left it to me, but that's not true, it was out of his reach." Blackpool had beaten Bolton Wanderers 4-3. Matthews, now aged 38, had won his first cup-winners medal.
In the 1955-56 season Blackpool finished 2nd in the First Division of the Football League. At the age of 68 Smith resigned as manager because of poor health.
Joe Smith died in Blackpool on 11th August, 1971.
(1) The Times (30th April, 1923)
West Ham United were every bit as good as their opponents until the second stoppage of play occurred. Even when the match was continued the crowd were actually on the touch-line and sometimes over it. The West Ham United outsides never showed confidence near to the crowd ; one was reminded constantly of the speech of the Maltese Cat on the subject of crowding in Rudyard Kipling's wonderful polo story, called after the great pony. Now Vizard seemed to enjoy the human wall which marked or obliterated the touch-line. On an ordinary day Bishop might have held him; in the circumstances his mentality was at fault, for which he is scarcely to blame. Richards made one brilliant dribble and break through for West Ham United and Pym fumbled a clever shot, though he eventually cleared comfortably. A little later a beautiful centre by Vizard was headed just wide by J. R. Smith. Bolton Wanderers continued to attack, and J. R. Smith scored from a clever centre from Butler. J. R. Smith was ruled offside, although he appeared to be well behind the ball when it was kicked. The Press Stand, however, is some distance in mere yards from the field of play, and the angle was not easy to judge. Until half-time Bolton Wanderers were always the more dangerous combination, and, but for the magnificent game which Henderson played at right full-back, they would probably have scored again on at least one occasion.
The teams did not leave the field at half-time - if they had done so, the match would not have been finished on Saturday - but crossed over and resumed play after a five-rninutes' interval. West Ham United began the second half well, and Watson had a good chance from a centre of Kay's, the centre-half having worked out on to the wing with a clever individual effort. Watson, however, misjudged the flight and direction of the ball and did not start for it in time. Pym saved two shots quietly and confidently and then came the movement that settled the result of the match. Vizard niggled the ball down the wing, very close to the touchline. Suddenly he kicked and ran, passed Bishop and centred right across the goal mouth. J. R. Smith got to the ball and shot immediately. The ball hit the inside of the cross-bar and bounced out again into play. It was, however, a goal and the referee had not the slightest hesitation in ruling it as such.
(2) Cyril Robinson, The Guardian (3rd May 2008)
Joe Smith, the manager, was never very tactical, he was very blunt with his instructions - "Go out there and get them beat," that kind of thing. You can't tell good players like Matthews and Mortensen what to do.
We lined up to go on to the field, very quiet. Then as soon as we walk on to the pitch, the roar, it sent shivers down your spine. We line up and are introduced to Prince Philip. We're thinking, let's just get on with the game.
We kicked off and within a couple of minutes we had a goal scored against us. That's about the worst thing that could happen. Gradually we got some passes together, got Stan Matthews on the ball and Mortensen got the equaliser, but they went back ahead straight away. Then just after half-time they scored again, 3-1.
(3) Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)
Blackpool had some very talented players indeed. That said, Joe Smith's dependency on the natural talent of his players to pull Blackpool through didn't always pay off. There were occasions when just a little pre-planning could have paid significant dividends, instances when a little organisation within the side may have made the difference between us being nearlies and landing the silverware I felt our overall talent deserved. Joe's implicit belief in the ability of his players to cope with any situation and win the day was his undoing at times. You don't have to tell good players what to do, but sometimes those talents need channelling. More often than not, Joe's team-talk was brief. What to do in the game was left entirely with the players.
"Get two goals up before half-time, lads," Joe would say, "so I can enjoy my cigar in the second half." Many was the time when Joe had left the dressing room, skipper Harry Johnston would get up to say the opposition had such and such a player in their ranks and point out his weaknesses and indicate to whoever in the Blackpool team was marking him to play him in a certain way. Harry's favourite expression once Joe Smith had left us to our own devices was to say,"`We haven't a bloody due what we're doing, have we?" Harry was right but such was the talent within the ranks we won games on sheer natural ability, with Harry taking on the manager's role on the pitch, issuing instructions as the game progressed.
If that sounds a little harsh on Joe Smith I don't intend it to. For all the emphasis was placed on the players to work things out as we went along in games, he was a marvellous manager, one for whom I had nothing but the highest respect.
(4) Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)
A minute of injury time remained. What happened then no scriptwriter could have penned because no editor would have accepted a story so far-fetched and outlandish. Ernie Taylor, who had not stopped running throughout the match, picked up a long throw from George Farm, rounded Langton and, as he had done like clockwork through the second half, found me wide on the right. I took off for what I knew would be one final run to the byline. Three Bolton players closed in, I jinked past Ralph Banks and out of the corner of my eye noticed Barrass coming in quick for the kill. They had forced me to the line and it was pure instinct that I pulled the ball back to where experience told me Morty would be. In making the cross I slipped on the greasy turf and, as I fell, my heart and hopes fell also. I looked across and saw that Morty, far from being where I expected him to be, had peeled away to the far post. We could read each other like books. For five years we'd had this understanding. He knew exactly where I d put the ball. Now, in this game of all games, he wasn't there. This was our last chance, what on earth was he doing? Racing up from deep into the space was Bill Perry. "Head over it Bill, don't blast it. Don't blast it!" I said to myself.
I was doing Bill an injustice. The "Original Champagne Perry" was as ice cool as the finest vintage in the coldest of buckets. He coolly and calmly stroked the ball wide of Hanson and Johnny Ball on the goalline and into the corner of the net. From 1-3 down it was now 4-3! Those in the seats took to their feet, those on the terraces and already standing, leapt into the air as Wembley erupted.
Perhaps it was down to the fact I swallowed hard to get some saliva into my dry mouth, or that the sudden eruption of sound was momentarily too much for my eardrums; maybe it was a combination of the two. For a brief moment, although conscious of the pandemonium that had broken out about me, I didn't hear a thing. I watched the ball hit the back of the net, looked back at Bill as he raised his arms and was for a split second rendered totally deaf. I looked at my team-mates jumping for joy and the only noise was a low, droning buzz in my ears. It was as if I was dreaming it. Swallowing hard again, my ears suddenly popped and were immediately assailed by the loudest and most resounding roar I'd ever experienced in a football stadium. It burst from the terraces and roared down and across the pitch like some terrifying banshee.
Having regained my feet, I watched as every player bar George Farm made a beeline for me. Morty's arms were outstretched his face beaming as he sprinted towards me; Bill Perry had an ecstatic smile on his face, his head going from side to side as if in disbelief; Ernie Taylor skipped and jumped as he ran in my direction, punching the air with a fist and yelling `It's there! It's there!' Harry Johnston, who always left his part top set of dentures in a handkerchief in his suit pocket, unashamedly bared his gums to the world. I felt Ewan Fenton's wet and clammy arms across my face as his hands ruffled my hair. It was all I could do to keep my feet as my team-mates mobbed me.
(5) Stan Mortensen, Football is My Game (1949)
Walter Winterbottom (the manager of England) is clever at preventing training from being dull. For instance, when we are shooting in, he doesn't just have a ball rolled to the forwards. Anyone ought to be able to shoot at a goalkeeper with the ball thrown nicely, anyway. No - he places two defenders there as well, and the forwards have to move in and crack the ball in a split second as under match-play conditions. This is keener training, and less monotonous. In fact, friendly rivalry makes it a grand pastime.
Believe me it is a great experience to play under his direction, and I should say here that it is equally stimulating to play under the Blackpool manager, Mr. Joe Smith. A club manager, with the usual problems of loss of form and various degrees of playing skill, Joe has one great virtue outstanding among all his others - and they are many. He is just about the best loser and winner in football. If we win he is never up in the air and dreaming of championships; and if we lose, he is quick to give consolation, and never gets down in the mouth.
Joe has been so long in the game as player and manager that he knows full well that one defeat doesn't mean relegation, any more than one win heralds the winning of the Cup or League. To have both feet firmly planted on the ground in the Joe Smith fashion is one of the first assets in first-class football. That goes for every footballer.
(6) Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)
For Blackpool, 1958 was a watershed year because Joe Smith left the club after 23 years in charge. It still isn't clear whether Joe left of his own accord or was pushed, but leave he did and, to my mind, the day he cleared his desk, Blackpool said goodbye to the best manager they have ever had in their history. Perhaps the fact we had not repeated our great FA Cup success of 1953 and had not won the First Division Championship despite being there or thereabouts, prompted the Blackpool directors to look for a new man to take the helm. Maybe, after 23 years at Bloomfield Road and now subject to bouts of ill-health, Joe simply felt he had had enough. Whatever the reason was, his departure saddened me.
He was, as I have said so often, a wily old bird. Never a great tactician, or even a reasonable one, he was nevertheless the best manager I ever had the privilege to play for. Joe brought out the best in me because he allowed me to play my natural game. I will always be grateful for his support and belief, especially when I look back to those moments when situations contrived to make me doubt myself and my own ability. When the Blackpool board agreed to my transfer to what was then a declining Stoke City, he stood firm and wouldn't let me go. The fact that I stayed to enjoy Blackpool's, and my, finest hour was all down to Joe and I like to think my performance in that 1953 Cup final went some way to repaying the faith he always had in me.
Joe was a great psychologist who could kid an average player into believing and performing as a good one, and a good player as a very good one.
He signed some very good players, and that's the hardest part of a manager's job. Joe did it time and again. As I have said before, a manager doesn't have to tell good players what to do, they know. His team-talks may have been brief but some of his words have stayed with me - in persuading me to stay on at Blackpool and reject the offer from Stoke City: "They're not the team you knew, Stan. They're like a pair of knickers with no elastic. They just won't stay up"; following a 4-0 defeat at Aston Villa in 1952: "That was a difficult game to play in, lads. But believe me, the pain you went through was nothing compared to the pain I endured having to sit and watch what you lot dished up out there"; referring to a report in the Daily Graphic that in every game one in ten professional footballers would turn in a below-par performance that didn't merit them picking up their wages: "Look around you. If you think the rest of the team did OK, then it's you"; after a disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of York City: "Someone told me that to be a football manager you have to have the patience of Job. But Job never had to manage this club."