Farewell to the Anfield Iron, Liverpool’s Tommy Smith, Friend and Foe to Super Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Tommy Smith

Tommy Smith, Anfield Legend

Tommy Smith, Liverpool’s legendary hard man defender and frequently skipper in the sixties and seventies, passed away today aged 74. With him went another link in the chain that Liverpool and Leeds United forged between themselves in those two decades, for most of which time they were untouchable as the two great powerhouses of English football.

Tommy was an original who became almost a cliché in that he was one of the earliest examples of the “take no prisoners” school of defending as English League football went through a grisly tough phase before and after Alf Ramsey’s World Cup triumph in 1966. In those days, a cult grew up around defenders upon whom you could rely to “kick owt that moves”; most of the top teams had at least one such. Indeed, what possibly set Leeds aside was that they were so richly served on both the constructive and destructive sides of the game. Man United’s George Best famously reminisced “All the top teams had one hard man. We had Nobby Stiles, Liverpool had Tommy Smith, and Arsenal had Peter Storey. Leeds United, by the way, had eleven of them”. That’s the kind of slightly grudging, backhanded compliment that makes a football fan’s heart swell with pride.

Tommy Smith, though, really did stand out. His appearance was almost that of a Desperate Dan in all red, the kind of man you supposed would shave with a blowtorch. Granite jawed and imposing, he struck fear into many a flash striker’s heart, and he neither gave nor asked any quarter when battle was joined. His catchphrase, issued in a Scouse growl whenever he was annoyed by opposition antics, was “Do that again, and I’ll snap yer back”. It was probably safer to assume that Tommy meant it, and behave accordingly.

On one famous occasion, though, when Leeds United visited Anfield, Allan “Sniffer” Clarke had the temerity to upend Tommy, leaving him dazed on the turf. Blinking and shaking his head, Smith enquired of his concerned Liverpool colleagues, in the manner of a road accident victim asking if anyone got the car’s number, “Who did that? I’ll snap his back!” A Liverpool team-mate promptly replied, “It was Clarke. And he’s just gone and kicked Emlyn up in the air as well”. Immediately, Smith’s expression softened. It was well-known on Merseyside that Smith had no time at all for Emlyn Hughes, and that fact clearly saved Sniffer from retaliation, as the Anfield Iron just smiled and got up a little groggily, saying “Ah, let him be. I always knew that fellow Clarkey was a good lad”.

It’s one of those stories linking Bill Shankly’s Liverpool with Don Revie’s Leeds, along

Tommy Billy

Tommy and Billy, Red and White

with the Spion Kop applauding the new Champions in 1969 after Leeds United secured a 0-0 draw at Anfield to win their first title. It was typical of the mutual respect between two great northern clubs, and it was still going on in 1992 when Leeds fans applauded Liverpool off at Wembley after the Reds had been beaten 4-3 in the Charity Shield. United fans hadn’t forgotten that their third title had been confirmed when Liverpool beat Man Utd 2-0 the previous April. It was a fantastic sight to behold, confirming the enduring link between good friends and foes.

Tommy Smith epitomised this fierce but friendly rivalry, and we’re all the poorer for his loss. I’ll never forget his finest hour, powering home a header in the 1977 European Cup Final to help Liverpool become Champions of Europe for the first time. It was a goal that summed the man up: uncompromising and unstoppable, scored by a legend among legends.

Tommy Smith, Liverpool FC Legend.  (5.4.45 – 12.4.19)  RIP

18 responses to “Farewell to the Anfield Iron, Liverpool’s Tommy Smith, Friend and Foe to Super Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Rob, that was a lovely tribute. I had a lot of respect for Liverpool in those times and Tommy Smith was its heart.


  2. peter white

    You are still a class act, you yorkies.. I was there the night you won the league at anfield and all these years later you show clubs like chelski what supporting the game is all about. Looking forward to meeting you again – it’s been too long. Thanks for the kind words. Another kopite in mourning. XXx


    • Commiserations and thanks, mate. And good luck in the Title race, it’s an unlikely claim to fame for us that we’ve won it since you have, but it’s been way too long and I’d love to see you hoist that trophy.


  3. hell of a tribute Rob,
    We had a few players of the same ilk as well not to many left now though sadly,I was at the charity shield . Biggest moment for me was Leeds singing souness as he walked off and his response “who me” and applauded us .ever since then Leeds Liverpool have had a lot of mutual respect . Wish we could get as many jammy goals as they do though.Going to game tomorrow hope we respect a proper footballer before the game RIP


  4. RIP Tommy, a proper footballing warrior.


  5. Philip of Spain.

    He was a monster,a brick wall who could also pass the ball. Had the pleasure of seeing him play several times,at Elland Road and at Anfield. A great who captained a great side.


  6. Andy Hinks

    a true pool’ great & real man , i remember being so happy when he scored that goal in 77 to win their First European cup after we had been ‘robbed’ of it in 75!

    i’ve always had big respect & fondness for Liverpool as a proper football club & IMO the biggest in the country & always have been!

    thanks for the memories Tommy!
    you would have got in & been part of our great side is the biggest compliment i could pay you. (not sure where but you’d be in!!)

    Kent White since 1969.


    • Only just found this site. I’m a scouser and my son is living in Leeds and loves it. I was a bit worried with him being a scouser living there that he’d have trouble but so far so good. Only trouble is when we go there we get lost nearly everytime with those numerous round abouts you seem to have.

      Anyway best story i read about Tommy Smith was when he said to be the ref: what would you do if I called you a dickhead?
      The ref said, well i’d have to book you Tommy.
      Tommy then said “well what if I thought you were a dickhead?” to which the ref replied. “ well there’s nothing i could do about that” and Tommy said “well I think you’re a dickhead.”


      • To be fair, I’ve heard that one attributed to a few football rebels over the years, usually with “bastard” instead of “dickhead”. Apocryphal or not, though, it’s a good’un 👍


  7. Reality Cheque

    Brilliant post Rob that accurately reflects the mutual respect, rivalry and banter shared between the true greats of the North.

    I remember enjoying one of the best days of my life in London on the build up to that classic Charity Shield match. The sun was shining, the beer was flowing (pity it had no head on it, but lets stick to the positives Rob), and every pub and street was crowded with Leeds and Liverpool fans bursting into a mutual chorus of “Stand Up if you HATE Man U” at every opportunity. The humour and banter between supposedly “rival” fans was amazing

    All this was rounded off by a fantastically competitive match with 7 goals and a victory for the Mighty Whites

    RIP Tommy


  8. I was hoping that you’d write something about Tommy Smith when I heard the sad news last night. The man could actually play and that fact gets ignored mostly. I remember before the 74 cup final Malcolm Macdonald was talking about what he was going to do to Liverpool,Tommy Smith just let his football do the talking during the match and snuffed supermac out of the game. It must have been bewildering and heartbreaking for the likes of Tommy Smith,Ron Yeats and Of course our lot to witness the overpaid narcissistic fairies who play the game these days. I’ve always wondered what the crack was with Emlyn Hughes at Liverpool as it would seem he wasn’t very popular at all.


  9. Hi Rob. Some years ago I went to a dinner with a close mate of mine Terry Gray who played for Town. Billy Brenner was the speaker and he had us in stitches.. The first time he played Liverpool he got the ball and started running, coming towards him was Smithy and Billy thought ” Oh hell, just get rid of it”. Unfortunately in the process he nutmegged Tommy and ran around him. Tommy ran up to him like a raging bull and I cannot repeat the language on here. Anyway as the ref ran past , Billy said “Did you hear what he says he going to do to me ref”. The ref ran past and said to Billy, “Glad it’s you and not me kid”
    Tommy Smith was one of the many legends we had in the game. Every team seemed to have a player you hated but loved in the same strange way. Osgood, George, Lee, McDonald and many more. Players who were masters at generating passion and atmosphere at a game that our younger fans will never experience. RIP Tommy, a true great and sadly not many left.


  10. Life is LUFC

    As I was reading your tribute followed by the comments I was thinking *them wur t’days. There is another bit to that but it is not politically correct so I will refrain.
    That was a lovely tribute and I am sure that is Tommy I can hear having a chuckle. Lovely one Rob.


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