Gilbert Oswald Smith was born in Croydon, Surrey, on 25th November, 1872. He learnt to play football at Charterhouse School. He attended Keble College and was selected for the Oxford University team that defeated Cambridge University in three out of four Varsity football matches.
Smith won his first international cap on 25th February, 1893. England beat Ireland 6-1 and Smith, who played centre-forward, scored two of the goals. In his next game against Wales on 12th March 1894 he scored two more in England's 6-1 victory.
Smith was 5 feet 11 inches tall but was of slight build and was extremely reluctant to head the ball. However, he had a good shot and made a lot of goals for his fellow attackers with his accurate passing.
After leaving university Smith became a school teacher at Lancing College. He played for the Old Carthusians in the 1897-98 season. Later he moved to the Corinthians, one of the best amateur teams in the country.
Ernest Needham was England's captain during Smith's early internationals. He later wrote: "Young players who wish to make a name for themselves as forwards would do well to watch such a player as Mr. G. O. Smith. In him they will see one of the finest centre-forwards England has ever had to represent her in International matches. He is one of the most brilliant and gentlemanly players who ever stepped on to a football field. He has never been known to do anything that was not scrupulously fair, nor to charge foully. He plays the game with ease and gracefulness; he is clever with the ball; he passes accurately; and he is one of the best shots at goal I have ever seen. When he shoots he seldom fails to hit the mark, and he is, above all, unselfish. There you have the ideal forward."
James Catton, Britain's top football journalist at the time, argued: "On the field he (Smith) was courageous and most unselfish. In his case, mind triumphed over muscle by quickness of decision, the swiftness of his movements, the perfect simplicity of his style, the swerve and balance of his body, and his neatness of footwork."
Smith developed a great playing relationship with Steve Bloomer for England. According to Frederick Wall, the president of the Football Association: "Smith used to call out Steve, and he made the position so favourable that in the twinkling of an eye the ball was in the net."
The London Charity Shield was established for the best professional and amateur teams in England. In 1898 Smith was captain of the Corinthians' team that drew 1-1 with Sheffield United in the final of the competition. In November 1900 he scored the winning goal in his club's 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.
Smith's main problem was that he was slightly built. James Catton pointed out: "Anyone could knock him off the ball if he could get into contact with him. But he was difficult to find, so elusive was he. His value consisted chiefly of wonderfully accurate passes to either wing; either to the inside or the outside man. And his body balance and swerve were such that when he left the arena not a hair of his head was out of place."
During his time playing for Corinthians (1898-1901) he scored 113 goals in 131 games. He also had a good record for England scoring 11 goals in 20 games. Smith played his last game for England on 30th March 1901. Also in the team that day was Ernest Needham, Steve Bloomer, William Oakley and Fred Blackburn. England drew 2-2 with Scotland with Smith and Blackburn getting the goals.
G. O. Smith retired from football after this international game. His place was taken by Vivian Woodward, another amateur player with a great scoring record.
Smith taught at Ludgrove School with his great friend, William Oakley. Eventually, the two men became joint headmaster of the school.
Gilbert Oswald Smith died in Lymington, Hampshire, on 6th December, 1943.