Terry Smith (football)

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.

Terry Smith
Terry Michael Smith

1959 (age 5960)
Alma materFurman University
OccupationFormer American football player, American football coach, owner, businessman
Spouse(s)Sara Smith

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

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.

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.

Team ownership and management of Chester City

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] He took over with almost all young players left in the squad, after almost all of the veteran players had been sold during the administration period in order to stay in business. 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.

Using this low budget strategy, along with increasing revenue through moderate 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, and the club was out of debt for the first time in at least many decades, possibly in history.

In Smith's four months in charge of team affairs, Chester had some 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. During the tie, 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. In the second round, they lost to Premiership club Aston Villa in both legs, although they were unlucky in the first leg losing 1–0, after Villa scored a penalty kick with only six minutes left, following a handball in the box. They also had success in the FA Cup, as they made it to the third round, and only lost to Manchester City in the final minutes, after the score was tied at 1–1 with eleven minutes left. He is the first American to ever own a British team, and until the arrival of David Wagner at Huddersfield Town, the only American to ever be a manager of a club in the English League, and the only American to ever coach in the FA Cup. His methods included saying aloud the Lord's Prayer during the pre-match team talk, preparing written strategic game plans for each individual match, and appointing captains for the defence, midfield and attack.[13]

In January 2000, with Chester out of debt and all the club debts paid off, and with Chester only one point from safety in the Division, Ian Atkins was appointed in a dual role as director of football and manager, in a bid to avoid relegation. Despite increasing their player wage bill by a very large amount, going into the final game of the season in May, Chester were 23rd, 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 seasons, Chester was still above both Shrewsbury and Carlisle, but due to Shrewsbury's 2–1 win at Exeter City, Carlisle's 1–0 loss to Brighton, and Chester's 1–0 home defeat by Peterborough United through a very late goal, Chester were relegated from the league on the final day, by goal difference.[15][16]

Atkins left, and fan favourite Graham Barrow returned as manager. Barrow 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) and won the Conference League Cup, the first silverware for the club in over 70 years. They were also mentioned as possible promotion contenders for the next season. In spite of this success, 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 2001–02 season, 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] Smith returned to his homeland, to work as a teacher. He also coached American football coach and baseball at a high school in North Carolina, and then later, as a Pro American football head coach. 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 of that amount.

Personal life

Smith is married to Sara; their daughter Shannon is also a Furman University alumnus, specialising in track and field.[4]


  1. 2015 FURMAN PALADINS. Furman University. p. 136.
  2. "Terry Michael SMITH". Companies House. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  3. "Terry Smith College Stats". Sports Reference. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  4. "Shannon Smith - Furman". Furman University. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  5. "2008 Furman Baseball The Record Book / Annual Statistical Leaders" (PDF). Furman University. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  6. "TRANSACTIONS". The New York Times. May 14, 1982. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  7. "Patriots chop seven". Sun Journal. 24 August 1982. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  8. "The great Chester soap opera". BBC Sport. 13 August 2001. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  9. Buckley, Will (6 December 1999). "Survival spirit from Mr Smith". The Observer. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  10. Hodgson, Guy (6 October 1999). "Rocky ride for white knight of Chester". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  11. Conn, David (3 May 2001). "Supporters fear for American's Chester dream". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  12. "Chester 1999/00". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  13. Howell, Mark (July 2000). "Deva and out". When Saturday Comes. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  14. "Table: 02.05.2000". Tony Brown. Statto. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  15. "Results and matches on: Sat, 6 May 2000". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  16. "English Division Three 1999-2000: Table". Tony Brown. Statto. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  17. Metcalf, Rupert (23 August 2001). "Shambles at Chester". The Independent. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  18. "Chester back on track". BBC Sport. 27 October 2001. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
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