Gordon Smith: Marauding Scottish defender who played for Aston Villa, Spurs and Wolves

 

Gordon Smith was one of the most promising young defenders in British football when he crossed the Scottish border to join Aston Villa from St Johnstone in August 1976. Sadly, despite laying on the winner as Villa won the League Cup in 1977, and going on to spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Glaswegian’s career was hampered by injuries.

Smith turned professional as a teenager with the Saints in July 1971 and accumulated youth international honours and four under-23 caps while making more than a century of top-flight appearances for the Perth club.

In the summer of 1976, the 22-year-old full-back was snapped up for £80,000 by Villa boss Ron Saunders and became a first-team regular. The highlight of Smith’s first English campaign was the League Cup triumph in which he played a decisive hand in the second replay of the final against Everton at Old Trafford, making a typical marauding run down the right to supply the cross from which Brian Little poached the winner in the penultimate minute of extra time.

Smith consolidated in 1977-78, but during the following term he lost the No 3 shirt to Gary Williams, had a disagreement with the martinet Saunders and accepted a £150,000 transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in February 1979.

Despite early injuries, there followed solid contributions in both full-back slots, and he worked hard to bounce back from a knee operation in 1980. But he missed out on Spurs’ FA Cup glory in 1981 and was freed to join Wolves a year later.

At Molineux, where he was deployed periodically in midfield, Smith helped to secure promotion to the elite grade in 1982-83, but fitness problems persisted and he left in 1984.

During mid-decade there was a brief sortie in South Africa and fleeting service to Phoenix Pride and Pittsburgh Spirit in the US, before premature retirement.

Gordon Melville Smith, footballer; born Partick, Glasgow 3 July 1954; died 5 April 2014.

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