Bobby Smith

Bobby Smith played for Redcar Boys Club, Chelsea and Tottenham

Spotted by Chelsea

Bobby Smith went on to win it all. “I was playing on Redcar Racecourse, for Redcar Boys Club against Grangetown, when one of the lads said to me ‘there’s a Chelsea scout on the touchline watching you’,” he recalled in an article for The Sunday People. He disregarded it at first, thinking that Chelsea wouldn’t be interested. And even if they were, like many local footballers his age, his aim was to play for Middlesbrough. But Chelsea’s North East scout Tommy Robinson was watching Smith, and by half time he had scored four goals. “He said to me ‘Bobby, I’d like to see you come to Chelsea’.” This was even more impressive considering he was playing out of position at the time. “I was a full back in the Redcar Boys team until, one day, our centre forward failed to turn up,” he said. 

A 15-year-old Smith went down to London to play for their junior side, living with his aunt in Fulham, but he struggled to settle at first. “I didn’t like the traffic. I missed the open fields of the North Riding and the peace and quiet,” he said. He decided that London life wasn’t for him and he set off for home. When he arrived back in his hometown of Lingdale, his no-nonsense father – who had just come home from a day’s work in the pit – wanted answers. “‘So you didn’t like it’, he said finally. ‘Well you’ve got to like it. You’re going back down there at the end of the week and I’ll be taking you. And this time, you’ll stay.’” And stay he did. 

Success at Spurs

After a decent few seasons for The Blues alongside Mike Collins where he scored on his debut in the 1950/51 season at the age of 17 with a “cool head and a splendid shot,” he had done enough to impress the powers that be at Tottenham in 1955. “They begged and prayed us to part with Smith,” said Chelsea manager Ted Drake. “We did not want to stand in his way, especially as he had a chance of establishing himself at White Hart Lane.” With echoes of Charles Pauls’ contributions to Preston North End’s 1889/90 title win, although Smith was part of the Chelsea side that had won the 1954/55 First Division title, he only made four appearances all season. Homesickness abated and with five seasons of playing centre forward in the top flight under his belt, Smith moved on. 

After a transfer fee of around £18,000, he won the League and FA Cup double with Spurs in 1960/61, retaining the FA Cup the following season and scoring in both finals, going on to win the 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup. Smith left White Hart Lane the following season and remains close to the very top of Tottenham’s all-time goalscoring tally.

He also had the honour of representing England on 15 occasions. He made his full debut at the age of 27, scoring in a 5-2 win over Northern Ireland. Smith helped England win the 1960/61 British Championship and also helped them qualify for the 1962 World Cup, scoring 13 international goals. Not bad for a Lingdale lad who grew up playing football in Redcar. 

Bobby Smith played for Redcar Boys Club and England

During this period, although some teams did find success – Redcar Works won the Cleveland League in 1953, Redcar Boys Club won the Stead Cup amongst various other local trophies, and Redcar Crusaders won the Middlesbrough and District League in 1954/55 – they were littered across the decade and could not be compared to the national success that players like Bobby Smith had achieved. “It’s been a long way from Redcar Racecourse pitch to the England side and Wembley,” said Smith. 

See also

Redcar Boys Club

Mike Collins

External links

Bobby Smith on Wikipedia