Dave Smith | 1933-2022

Dave Smith | 1933-2022

Everyone at Dundee Football Club was saddened to learn of the death of former manager Dave Smith. Dave managed his hometown team Dundee FC from 1988 until 1989 and passed away just shy of his 89th birthday. 

Despite being born in Dundee, Dave’s playing career was entirely down south and he played almost 150 games for Burnley (where he spent 11 years), Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City. 

It was as a coach and manager however that he would make his name and he started his coaching career with Sheffield Wednesday after hanging up his boots. His next post was at St James’ Park and he helped Newcastle United to their last major honour in 1969, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. 

After a coaching stint at Arsenal, Smith took up his first managerial role at Fourth Division Mansfield Town just after re-election was avoided. In his first season, he led Mansfield to the title without losing a game at home and winning the league by six points; a remarkable turnaround in such a short space of time. 

His next job was at Southend United where in his second season promotion from the Fourth Division was achieved again, this time as runners-up to Watford in 1978. Two seasons of struggle followed resulting in relegation. Again, promotion was achieved at the first attempt, this time as champions, with nine club records broken in the process. Third Division safety was then achieved and Smith’s job was assured until a takeover left him out. 

Sixteen months followed out of football selling insurance and applying for every vacant manager’s position. Smith then took over at Third Division Plymouth Argyle in December 1984 and fifteenth position was achieved in his first part-season. The following year promotion was achieved to the Second Division as runners-up to Reading. In 1987 Smith took Plymouth to 7th position in the second tier of English football, narrowly missing out on the end-of-season playoffs. This was one of the club’s highest-ever finishing positions and was achieved on a modest playing budget. 

Smith’s legendary status amongst Argyle fans was helped by his colourful personality, which included using poetry to describe his team’s performance and wearing his tartan cap for good luck. 

In the summer of 1988, Smith brought his tartan cap and poetry to Dens Park to replace Jocky Scott who had gone north to be co-manager of Aberdeen. The Dundee chairman Angus Cook was a long-time friend and wanted to bring Dave ‘home’ to the City of Discovery and he was appointed on July 4th. 

His first competitive game in charge was an encouraging 1-1 draw with Aberdeen which came after a 2-0 win over his former side Newcastle United in the Dunclare Dispensers Cup pre-season match. 

Wins over Queen of the South and Falkirk took Dundee to the Skol Cup quarter-finals where they went out away at Rangers but three weeks later defeated the other half of the Old Firm 1-0 at Dens thanks to a Tommy Coyne winner and Smith is still the last Dundee manager to beat Celtic at Dens. 

It was the first of a double over the Parkhead side as just a month later Dundee went to Glasgow and beat Celtic 3-2 on their own patch after being 2-0 down after just 15 minutes. With the game covered by Sportscene on BBC that night, Smith gave a colourful post-match interview by quoting the poet Robert Browning and saying, “If a man cannot exceed his grasp, then what’s a heaven for.” 

A perfect analogy for Dundee’s desire to be successful. 

Results however were mixed and by Christmas Smith was under pressure with no wins in eight. Congratulating Dundee United on the pitch after a derby defeat hadn’t gone down well with some quarters of the Dark Blue faithful but things seemed to be on track again when a Tommy Coyne double on Hogmanay gave The Dee their first home win over Aberdeen since the opening day of the Premier Division in 1975. 

However, failure to win in the next three, including a third derby defeat of the season prompted Smith to resign and the likeable Dundonian left after just 27 games in charge. 

Smith returned to the West Country enjoying a successful spell as manager of Torquay United before resigning in April 1991 and retiring from management. 

However, he remained involved in football and ran highly popular soccer schools in the Plymouth area and he is featured on one of the many murals within Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park stadium, reflecting his status as one of the club’s most popular and successful managers. 

Memorable results, poetry, Shakespeare quotes, talking to the fans with a microphone on the pitch, life was rarely dull when Dave Smith was in charge. 

The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Dave’s family and friends at this sad time 

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