Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith was born in Abbotts Langley on 14th January 1874. After leaving school he worked as a haulage machine operator at the Cannock and Rugeley Colliery. He played football for Cannock Town and Hednesford Town before joining Aston Villa in August 1893.

Aston Villa won the First Division title in 1893-94 season. The club scored 84 goals in 30 games. The main contributors included John Devey (20), Dennis Hodgetts (12) and Charlie Athersmith (10). Smith only played 15 games that year sharing the outside-left position with John Cowan.

In the 1894-95 season Aston Villa finished in 3rd place in the First Division of the Football League. Stephen Smith finished as second top scorer with 13 goals in 26 games. Tony Matthews argued in his book, Who's Who of Aston Villa that: "Smith was an accomplished winger, very tricky, who could pass a ball with pinpoint accuracy and produce a stunning shot. A player who rose to the big occasion."

Aston Villa had victories over Derby County (2-1), Newcastle United (7-1), Nottingham Forest (6-2), Sunderland (2-1) to reach the 1895 FA Cup Final against West Bromwich Albion. The Aston Villa winger Robert Chatt, scored the only goal of the game after 39 seconds.

Stephen Smith won his first and only international cap against Scotland on 6th April 1895. The England team included Billy Bassett, Steve Bloomer, Jack Reynolds, Jimmy Crabtree, John Goodall, John Holt, Ernest Needham and John Sutcliffe. England won 3-0 with Smith scoring one of the goals.

Aston Villa won the First Division title in 1895-96. For the first time since he joined the club, John Devey was not top scorer. He only scored 16 goals, whereas Johnny Campbell, who had been signed from Celtic, managed to net 26. Other members of these outstanding team included Dennis Hodgetts, Charlie Athersmith, James Cowan, John Cowan, Jack Reynolds, Jimmy Crabtree and Howard Spencer. As Philip Gibbons pointed out in Association Football in Victorian England: "Aston Villa had twice won the League Championship, as well as the FA Cup, during the three previous seasons, with a team generally acknowledged as the finest in the land."

Aston Villa retained the title the following season by beating the runners-up, Sheffield United, by an amazing 11 points. Aston Villa scored 73 goals. The main contributors included George Wheldon (18), John Devey (17) and Johnny Campbell (13). Smith only played in 15 games that season and once again shared the outside-left position with John Cowan.

On 30th January, 1897, Aston Villa beat Newcastle United 5-0 in the third round of the FA Cup. Smith got one of the goals. Villa went onto beat Notts County (2-0), Preston North End (3-2) and Liverpool (3-0) to reach the final against Everton. A crowd of 60,000 arrived at Crystal Palace to watch the final. Unfortunately for Smith, John Cowan was chosen to play on the left-wing.

Charlie Athersmith scored the opening goal but Everton hit back with goals from Jack Bell and Richard Boyle. Aston Villa continued to dominate the game and added two more from George Wheldon and Jimmy Crabtree. That finished the scoring and therefore Aston Villa had emulated the great Preston North End side that had achieved the FA Cup and Football League double in 1888-89 season.

Before the beginning of the 1897-98 season, Aston Villa lost the services of Johnny Campbell and Jack Reynolds, who both decided to join Celtic in the Scottish League. During the opening month of the campaign, Howard Spencer sustained a serious leg injury that kept him out of the team for the rest of the season. Aston Villa missed these three key players and could only finish in 6th place in the league. They was also knocked out of the FA in the first round by Derby County. Smith only played nine games that season.

Aston Villa was back in form the following year. Two new players emerged that season: George Johnson and Billy Garraty. However, it was John Devey who was the star of the side scoring 21 goals in 30 games. George Wheldon also did well with 16 in 33. Smith regained his place in the first-team and played in 27 games that season. Aston Villa once again won the league title, with Liverpool taking the runners-up spot.

Aston Villa confirmed it was the best club in England during the 1890s when it won the First Division championship the following season. This was their fifth league title in seven years. During this period they had also won the FA Cup twice (1895 and 1897). Billy Garraty was the top scorer in league and cup games in the 1899-1900 season with 31 goals. He was followed by John Devey (18) and George Wheldon (13). Stephen Smith scored 7 goals in 31 games that season.

In May 1901 Smith joined Portsmouth. In his eight years at Aston Villa, Smith scored 42 goals in 194 games for the club. In the 1901-02 season Smith helped Portsmouth win the Southern League championship. Later he was player-manager of New Brompton.

Stephen Smith died in Benson, Oxfordshire, on 19th May 1935.