Skip to main content

News

  • View froma legend(2)
Subscribe to newsfeed 

View from...a legend

Posted on 18 September 2009  - 12:00

The great Bobby Smith talks about one of the biggest decisions of his life over 60 years ago...

View from...a legend

It's safe to say Bobby Smith got the two big footballing decisions of his life absolutely spot on.

The famous, fearless striker of our glory, glory years is second only behind Jimmy Greaves in our all-time goalscoring list having bagged 208 goals in 317 appearances between 1955-1964.

But it might have been a different story.

Turn the clock back to 1948 and a youngster from the village of Lingdale, North Yorkshire, decided enough was enough at his first club Chelsea and caught the train back home.

Thankfully his father, Alfred, was able to talk his son around.

As we prepare to face Chelsea on Sunday, Bobby was happy to reflect on those early days at Stamford Bridge.

"I initially went down for a trial and played in a cup final against Charlton," said Bobby, now 76. "We played at Stamford Bridge and I scored three goals. We won 3-1.

"But coming down to London, it was such a big place that I got a little homesick, I played the game on the Friday but by the Saturday, I'd just about had it, so I got on the train and travelled back home.


Bobby, Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves

"Once I got home, my dad said 'I'm going to take you back because if you don't go back, you'll realise what a fool you are'. He told me that I might win the First Division or a cup medal and everything he said was right. He told me to stay down there for another fortnight, he came with me and I enjoyed it very much.

"I was down there in digs. I was 15 when I went into digs. I'll never forget - I got £2.50 for my pocket money and Chelsea paid for my lodgings, about a fiver, so that was about £7.50 a week! I didn't think about the money though, I would have played football for nothing.

"I lived on Britannia Road, right next to the ground. Myself and a couple of lads Lenny Kell and Andy Bobham, had lodgings together and we mixed really well. We were all away from home and we all got on with it.

"Of course, I still missed everyone back home but I knuckled down to work. I was on the ground staff and working throughout the day, working at the ground, sweeping the terraces, cleaning the baths out or cleaning boots on a Monday morning after the team had played on the Saturday. That really got me into it."

Bobby's father's influence cannot be understated and he often refers to him when he's being interviewed.

FA Cup Final, 62

"Yes, he was a big influence," he agreed. "He played football to a decent standard himself and everyone told me he was a good player. When I got the opportunity to come down to Chelsea he told me to go for it and that I would make a good footballer. Everything he said was right. One thing he said was he'd love to see me in the FA Cup Final, which he did, and another was to see me play for England, which he did. Everything worked out how he told me.

"When I first arrived on London I just thought it was too big!

"When you live in a little village and you come down to London it's a big place. I just got overwhelmed.

"But I soon changed after my dad brought me back down and spent that fortnight with me, which he enjoyed as well. He told me to stick with it and I did. I always took notice of what he said."

Bobby soon turned professional at Chelsea and went on to score 30 goals in 86 appearances between 1950-55.

But he'd fallen out of favour with the arrival of Ted Drake as manager and Tottenham's interest in him fell just right, December 1955.

Cue big decision number two...

"Jimmy Anderson and Bill Nicholson came over to see me. I said I didn't want to go at first, but Roy Bentley (Chelsea striker) told me to go and sign, especially as the manager was against me.

"Jimmy was the manager at the time, Bill would take over later. I appreciated them coming over to see me and I never looked back after that. Everything went right for me and I thank everyone for that. I've so many fond memories and feel that every time I go back to Tottenham."

FA Cup Final, 1961


Memories, memories. Before the glory, it's worth noting that Bobby scored the goals to take us away from a relegation scrap in that 1955-56 season before scoring 36 league goals in 1957-58, equalling Ted Harper's record set in 1930-31.

His first England cap arrived in October, 1960 and he went on to score 13 goals in 15 caps.

After that, the trophies. The championship and FA Cup double in 1961, another FA Cup in 1962 - Bobby scored in both finals, against Leicester and Burnley - and then European glory in the shape of the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963. By then, he'd formed one of the most feared striking partnerships of all time alongside the great Jimmy Greaves.

Bobby eventually joined Brighton in May, 1964.

"When I moved to Tottenham I was a different player, I learnt a lot of things and working with the lads and Bill Nicholson, I really was on top of the world.

"I thought it was the best club in the world, when we won the double, and I still think it's the best club in the world."