DAVE SMITH RIP
09 Sept 2022
Martin Shaw @shawma1
RIP Dave Smith. What sad news.
He was one of the greatest managers in MTFC's history.
Indeed I wrote in this article (https://stagsnet.net/vintage/reports/manager_records.htm): My opinion is that Dave Smith was our best ever manager.
In Memoriam: Dave Smith (1933 - 2022)
The club was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dave Smith, arguably the club’s greatest ever manager, at the age of 88.
Dave was in charge of Mansfield Town during the golden period of the club’s history in the mid-1970s.
Born in Dundee, he began his playing career to Burnley in 1950 and moved on to Brighton and Hove Albion in 1961 before joining Bristol City in 1962 where his career ended.
He started his coaching career with Sheffield Wednesday and then moved to Newcastle United and Arsenal.
His first managerial post was with the Stags in 1974 where he inherited a very good squad.
Dave signed two club legends - Gordon Hodgson and Ray Clarke - and, in his first season the club stormed to the old Fourth Division Championship with a club record (under two points for a win) 68 points, six points clear of runners-up Shrewsbury Town.
His second season, in 1975-76, was not so successful and by mid-February the club were bottom of Division 3, six points from safety.
Though the turnaround was remarkable as the team remained unbeaten for the last 19 games of the season to finish in the top half of the table.
However, with four games of the season remaining, Smith had been relieved of his duties - and temporarily replaced by his assistant manager Mick Buxton - with the reason never being made public and is still a mystery to this day.
He won four Manager of the Month awards with Mansfield: October and November 1974 in Division Four and March and April 1976 in Division Three.
He also took the Stags to the semi-finals of the Anglo-Scottish Cup and the fifth round of the League Cup in 1975-76.
Dave subsequently managed Southend United, Plymouth Argyle, Dundee and Torquay United, winning trophies with three of them.
He is second on the all-time list of Stags’ managers in the English Football League having won 44 of his 94 [league] matches in charge, a win rate of 48.6%.
Dave was a truly great manager who achieved success wherever he went, with the only disappointment being his unexplained exit from the Stags.
Smith’s successor- Peter Morris - built on his legacy and the club went on to reach the old Division 2 (now Championship).
The club sends its deepest condolences to Dave’s family and will hold a minute’s applause prior to kick-off in our home fixture against Hartlepool United on Friday 30 September.
Tribute by Darren Shaw
Dave Smith was the manager of Mansfield Town from 1974-1976 and put together the best Mansfield Town team that I have ever seen that won the Division 4 Championship in 1974-1975. They also reached the 5th Rd of the FA Cup before losing 1-0 to First Division Carlisle United in front of 18,293 fans at Field Mill. The football was just tremendous and we fancied our chances against anybody. We beat the First Division Champions, Dave McKay's Derby County 1-0 in Sam Eaton's testimonial at the end of the season. The league record was P46 W28 D12 L6 (Home: P23 W17 D6 L0). That would be 96 points today with 3 points for a win.
Kevin Bird and Colin Foster were rock solid and tough tackling in defence and if you got past them then you had to beat the King of Field Mill, Rod Arnold in goal (20 clean sheets). Kevin Bird (7 goals) and Colin Foster (3 goals) could also score from set pieces. Paul Matthews did all the hard work in midfield but he could also play and was good on the ball. Dave Smith signed Gordon Hodgson from Newcastle United. He was one of the best attacking midfield players seen at Field Mill who would float around the field and feed the ball to Jimmy McCaffrey and John Lathan on the wings or to Ray Clarke and Terry Eccles up front. Hodgy scored 11 goals. Sandy Pate and Clive Walker/Barry Foster would also bomb forward from full back. Jimmy McCaffrey, the little winger, was my hero. He would often play on the right wing attacking the Quarry Lane (away end) in the 1st half and then switch to the left wing attacking the North Stand full of Stags fans in the 2nd half. He would beat his full back two or three times and then put lovely crosses in for Clarke and Eccles to attack. Jimmy Mac scored 8 goals and John Lathan scored 9 goals. We then had the big strong and brave Terry Eccles up front who was not afraid to put his head in where it hurts to score 20 goals and the lethal Ray Clarke who had been released by Tottenham and made a few appearances for Swindon before joining the Stags for £8,000. Ray Clarke had his big breakthrough season and scored a massive 30 goals.
There were also cameo appearances at centre half from Dai Lllewellyn (6 games) on loan from Peterborough United, Pat Kruse (6 games) on loan from Leicester City and John Tones (3 games) from Dave Smith's former club Arsenal after Kevin Bird broke his leg at the end of August. Kevin Bird amazingly returned to action in November. Laurie Madden also joined on loan at centre half from Arsenal at the end of the season and played 5 games.. Doug O'Connor signed on a free from Barnsley and stood in for Jimmy McCaffrey for 9 games at the start of the seaon and Mick Laverick also came in for Terry Eccles for 7 games in October. Kevin Griffin also came in on loan from Bristol City and played 4 games up front after Terry Eccles had been kicked in the face against Cambridge whilst scoring with a diving header.
In 1975-1976 Dave Smith signed centre half Ian McKenzie from Sheffield United, midfielder Ian MacDonald from Liverpool and full back Noel Brien from Arsenal in the summer. He later signed centre forward Kevin Randall from Notts County. John Haselden, his assistant manager, left for Sheffield Wednesday and he was replaced by Mick Buxton. The Stags reached the quarter finals of the League Cup beating Scunthorpe United, Wrexham, Coventry City and Wolverhampton Wanderers before losing 4-2 to Manchester City at Maine Road in front of 30,022 fans. However we were 5 points adrift at the bottom of Division 3 in February but then went unbeaten for the last 19 games winning 12 and drawing 7 to finish 11th in Division 3. Ray Clarke scored another 27 goals and was sold to Sparta Rotterdam for a record fee of £90,000 and then later joined Ajax, Brighton and Newcastle United. Dave Smith then suddenly left Field Mill in mysterious circumstances (see note *) before moving on to win league titles at Southend United and Plymouth Argyle.
The Mansfield Town team that Dave Smith had built (with a few additions) then went on to win the Division 3 Championship in 1976-1977 under Peter Morris with Rod Arnold, Sandy Pate, Kevin Bird, Colin Foster, Ian MacKenzie, Barry Foster, Gordon Hodgson and Kevin Randall all playing regularly. Paul Matthews played 17 games, Ian MacDonald 15 games and Jimmy McCaffrey played 16 games before leaving for Huddersfield Town along with Terry Eccles (10 games). A young Mick Saxby also came into the team after making his debut under Dave Smith the previous season.
Rest In Peace Dave and thanks for all the fantastic memories.
note * There were unfounded rumours of a relationship. However Dave Smith and former players have told me that this was not true.
Dave Smith was a great manager but I have been told by some of his former players that he could be a very difficult controversial character and he often fell out with them including the senior players. My own theory after talking to lots of them is that the relationship between players and manager had just broken down after a very successful 18 months-2 years. Other sources have confirmed this. It happens in all workplaces.
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