Terry Smith (football)

Last updated
Terry Smith
Terry Michael Smith

1959 (age 6162)
Alma mater Furman University
OccupationFormer American football player, American football coach, owner, businessman
Spouse(s)Sara Smith

Football career
Position: Defensive back
Career information
College: Furman
Undrafted: 1982
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
As a head coach:

Terry Michael Smith (born May 1959) [2] is an American sportsman, known for his playing and coaching career in American football and baseball, and his ownership of professional sports teams.


After starting his playing career as a defensive back for American football franchise New England Patriots, Smith moved abroad to the United Kingdom, where he achieved international success as the player-head coach of the Manchester Spartans and as the head coach of the Great Britain national American football team. He later spent ten years as owner and general manager of professional American football teams, and two years as owner and general manager of English association football club Chester City from 1999 to 2001, including a spell as manager during part of his ownership.

Collegiate career

Smith attended Cornell University for two years, where he played football at wide receiver and free safety and baseball at shortstop and second base. He then transferred to Furman University, where he played football, baseball, and ran track, becoming the only Furman athlete for the past 50 years to play and letter in three sports. In football, he started at free safety for two years on two Southern Conference Championship Furman teams, leading all defensive backs with more than 150 tackles in two seasons and being selected to the Academic All-Southern Conference and All-Region teams. In baseball, he started for two seasons in centerfield, hitting .414 in 1982, the 5th highest single season batting average in Furman history, and he was selected first-team All-Southern Conference and MVP. He finished his career with a .363 career batting average, which is still the second-highest career batting average in Furman history, and the highest career Furman average for the past sixty years. He also stole 29 bases out of 31 attempts, giving him the highest career success rate for steals in Furman history for any player who has attempted more than 10 attempts. In track, he ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 400 meter, and he also ran the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 relays. [3] [4] [5]

American football

Professional career

Smith started his professional American football career in 1982. He was signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots. [6] However, he injured his knee in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, an injury that required major reconstructive surgery, and was placed on the injured reserve list. [7] He stayed with the Patriots for two years before eventually having to retire because his injured knee would not pass the team physical. He then went on to sign for the Arizona Wranglers in the USFL, and in professional baseball was invited to spring training with the Cincinnati Reds and signed with the Miami Marlins.

Coaching career

After coaching in various U.S. Colleges as a Defensive Coordinator, Smith went to Great Britain because he was signed as the player-head coach of the Manchester Spartans. Due to his high level of success, which included turning around a 2-10 team into an all-time British and European record 14-0 undefeated team in his first season, then he was chosen by the Great Britain National Governing Body as the head coach of the National Team Great Britain national American football team. As a wide receiver and free safety, Smith set many playing records, including setting the League and National British record for pass interceptions in a season with 14, and setting the League and National record for pass receptions in a game with 15. He had several 1,000 yard pass receiving seasons, led Europe in receiving yards, and he was named to the All-European Team on several occasions. As a head coach, he won three straight Division Championships, three straight Conference Championships, two straight National Championships, and two straight European Championships, one European Championship with the Manchester Spartans, and one European Championship with the Great Britain National Team. No British team had ever won a single game in European competition until Smith arrived. After leading the Spartans to the National Championship in order to qualify for the European Championships, Smith led the Spartans to victories over Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Milan, to win the EuroBowl European Championship. With the Great Britain National Team, Smith led Great Britain to victories over the Netherlands, Germany, and Finland by a combined score of 99-6 to win the European Nations Championship. These were the first two European Championships in British American football history.[ citation needed ]

Smith is the only coach in European history to have won both of these European Championships. He won more than 100 games in total as a head coach, while losing only 15. Due to his coaching success, Smith was selected as the National Coach of the Year three straight times, and as the European Coach of the Year twice. In addition, due to his playing and coaching success, Smith was selected to the Great Britain American Football Hall of Fame in 2004, and to the U.S. Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.[ citation needed ]

Professional sports team ownership

Smith went on to become the owner of several professional sports teams, including the European Champion Spartans. In addition, he became the first American owner, chairman, and chief executive in the history of professional English League and European football. Americans have since gone on to own several of the European professional football teams, including English teams Manchester United and Liverpool, but Smith initiated American ownership by becoming the first American to have a vision of the opportunity and to purchase a team. In July 1999, he bought financially struggling English League club Chester City, a club that was financially insolvent and being run by an administrator. He declared his belief that the club could reach Division One (now the EFL Championship) within three years. [8] The club was in administration when he took over, and close to folding with more than £1 million in debt, and almost all the veteran players already sold to other clubs in order to pay club bills to keep the club from going out of business. He was credited with rescuing Chester from the brink of bankruptcy by supporters at the time, and announced an intention to appoint three supporters to the club board of directors, which he did. [9]

Manager Kevin Ratcliffe quit the job four games into the season with the team at the bottom of the table, having not scored a goal yet in the league, attempting to claim £350,000 from a previously unknown contract that the administrator had not even known existed, an alleged contract that supposedly allowed him to resign by his own choice and still be paid this amount that was equal to more than six years of his managerial salary as a golden parachute severance payment. This made the financial situation even more difficult. With the club already in large debt and losing hundreds of thousands of pounds every year, and now with an additional large financial severance claim by the ex-manager, then it was not possible to even consider hiring a new manager, and so Smith put together a plan to utilize the assistant coaches that were already in place. [10] Despite by his own admission having little knowledge of football, Smith appointed himself as the leader of a five-man coaching team, in the role of team manager. [11]

At the time of Smith's takeover, most veteran players had been sold and the remaining players were mostly young. He kept these young players and tried to develop them in order to keep the player wages low, so that the club could not only balance the budget for that season, but also so they could try to pay off the £1 million of debt. Smith additionally kept costs low during his time as manager by not staying in hotels for away matches, by having the team travel on very basic buses to away matches, and by practicing on a free piece of unlined grass in the middle of the local horse racetrack.

Using this low budget strategy, along with increasing revenue through good Cup runs in the FA Cup and the Worthington Cup, and with increased attendance and commercial advertising, Smith was able to get all the club's debts paid off within only six months, which was two years earlier than the administration required. As a result, the club was out of debt for the first time in at least many decades, possibly in history.[ citation needed ]

In Smith's four months and 21 league matches in charge of team affairs, Chester managed wins against Brighton & Hove Albion, Shrewsbury Town and others, but lost 5–1 and 4–1 to Leyton Orient and Carlisle United respectively, and required a replay to overcome non-league minnows Whyteleafe in the FA Cup. [12] However, they did find success in the Worthington Cup, beating First Division Port Vale 6–5 on aggregate; they won 2–1 at the Deva Stadium in a game which saw both Marcus Bent and Martyn Lancaster sent off, and then drew 4–4 in the return leg at Vale Park.

They also had success in the FA Cup, as they made it to the third round for just the third time in the club's 100-year history. Drawn against Manchester City, they only lost in the final minutes after the score was tied at 1–1 with eleven minutes left. While scouting Man City ahead of the match, Smith, who came up with a very good strategy and team plan for the Man City match, found that when he could watch a match from up in the stands, then he was able to see the necessary tactical adjustments because of his many years of experience coaching American football, where coaches scout opponents by spending hundreds of hours every season watching game footage of their opponents that is filmed from high in the stands. This skill would benefit the team considerably the following season, when Smith would scout all of Chester's impending cup opponents.

Smith remains the only American to ever be the manager of a club in either the Football League or the FA Cup. His methods included saying aloud the Lord's Prayer during his pre-match team talk, preparing lengthy written strategic game plans for each match that he went over in his pre-match team talk and gave copies of to each player, always staying positive no matter the current difficulties and circumstances, developing a school program where he went with players to speak with and coach schoolchildren, and to give out free tickets to each child for the upcoming matches, and appointing captains for the defence, midfield and attack. [13]

In late December 1999, with Chester out of debt and on firm financial footing for the first time in decades thanks to Smith’s tight monetary policies, Smith chose to step down as manager. His decision came only one match after his team had pulled itself off the bottom of the Division following a 2-1 win over Halifax Town. Smith hired veteran manager Ian Atkins to the dual role of director of football and manager in a bid to avoid relegation, while Smith himself took on the role of goalkeeper coach for the remainder of the season.

With the improvements in the club’s financial position, the club was able to sign twelve new players, pay for team travel by luxury coaches and stay at top hotels for all away matches, and pay for a proper training facility. However, despite these investments, the team began slowly under Atkins, losing seven of his first nine matches in charge, with one win and one draw, and falling well adrift at the bottom of the Division table. Afterwards, however, results began to improve, and a 5-0 home victory over Mansfield Town in April put Chester in a better position.

Going into the final game of the season, Chester had pulled themselves up to 23rd in the 24-team division, and faced a three-way battle with Shrewsbury Town and Carlisle United to avoid the drop to the Conference. [14] With fifteen minutes left in the season, Chester were above both Shrewsbury and Carlisle, but conceded a late goal against Peterborough United that was enough to see them relegated from the Football League on goal difference. [15] [16]

Atkins left, and fan favourite Graham Barrow returned as manager. He completely rebuilt the team, and in the 2000–01 season, his side managed a respectable ninth place, reached the third round of the FA Cup for the second successive season (in a controversial loss to Blackburn Rovers), made it to the semi-finals of the FA Trophy, and won the Conference League Cup, the first silverware for the club in over 70 years. During the season, Smith served as Barrow's scout and set-piece strategist for all cup opponents, travelling on his own to scout opponents at least once or twice before Chester played them. In this scouting role, Smith utilized his American football background, where every American Football play is planned and choreographed from a set position in intricate detail, to focus on the development of creative set pieces, both corners and free kicks, for all the Cup matches that were based upon the weaknesses he perceived in the opponents' defensive alignment.

In addition, Barrow approached Smith at the start of the season, and asked him to watch the first half of every Chester match from up in the stands as a scout would, and then report what he saw to Barrow at halftime while Barrow was walking from the pitch to the dressing room. This good working relationship between them continued throughout the season.

In spite of this success, ahead of the 2001–02 season, Smith appointed Gordon Hill, an ex-Manchester United and ex-England player who was a personal friend, to become the new manager. [17] Chester made a dreadful start to the season under Hill, winning only one of their first twelve matches. Smith finally sold his interest in the club to Stephen Vaughan and left at the start of October 2001, with the club completely out of debt other than what it owed him. [18]

In 2003, a British court ordered Chester City to repay £300,000 in unpaid loans to Smith and his family. However, Smith still wanted to help the club, and so he accepted a settlement of far less than half that amount.

AppleTV’s television series Ted Lasso is largely based on Smith’s managerial stint at Chester City, and a number of scenes from Ted Lasso episodes are very similar to actual events and matches involving Smith that were covered in the British media during Smith’s time as manager. In fact, Apple’s own magazine in their April 23, 2021 edition writes that their Emmy Award-winning series “was actually inspired by the story of Terry Smith, an American gridiron football coach who took over the English association football team Chester City F.C. and subsequently installed himself as the first-team coach”. [ citation needed ]

Personal life

Smith is married to Sara; their daughter Shannon is a Furman University alumna, specialising in track and field where she earned All-Southern Conference recognition. [4] Their son Wade is also a Furman alumna, specializing in American football where he was chosen for Furman’s Academic Achievement Award with the highest GPA of any Furman athlete in any sport, and he was chosen as the recipient of the C. Dan Joyner Leadership Award that is awarded to the student-athlete in any Furman sport who exemplifies the very highest qualities of leadership, inspiration, and service.

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