LONDON (AFP) – Liverpool legend Tommy Smith, one of the key figures in the club’s first golden era, died on Friday (April 12) at the age of 74.
Smith’s no-nonsense performances at the heart of Liverpool’s defence saw him nicknamed the ‘Anfield Iron’ during his 18-year spell on Merseyside.
Making 638 appearances for the Reds between 1960 and 1978, Smith won a host of medals as the club rose to prominence both domestically and in Europe.
Under the management of the great Bill Shankly, Smith helped Liverpool dominate for two decades.
Reflecting his tough style of play, Shankly once said of one of his favourite players: “Tommy Smith wasn’t born, he was quarried”.
Smith, who captained the club for three years, was one of the most influential members of the Liverpool team that won the FA Cup for the first time in 1965.
Twelve years later, with Bob Paisley at the helm, he would head a crucial goal as Liverpool won their maiden European Cup by defeating Borussia Moenchengladbach in the 1977 final in Rome.
In total, Liverpool-born Smith, who grew up in the shadow of Anfield before joining the club he supported as a boy, won the English title four times, the FA Cup twice, the European Cup once and the UEFA Cup twice.
Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Smith’s daughter Janette Simpson said: “Dad died very peacefully in his sleep shortly after 4.30pm today.
“He had been growing increasingly frail and suffering from a variety of ailments over the last three months especially. We are obviously all devastated.”
Smith left Liverpool for Swansea, managed by his old Reds team-mate John Toshack, in 1978, and helped them to promotion from the old Third Division.
He received the MBE for services to football and retired from playing in 1979.
A brief return to Anfield as youth coach preceded a career as an after-dinner speaker and newspaper columnist.
Smith suffered a heart attack in 2007 before being diagnosed with Alzheimers and dementia in 2014.
Smith’s former Liverpool team-mate Phil Thompson told Sky Sports that his fellow defender was an ‘icon’.
“I loved him from the Kop, because of his passion, commitment and never-say-die attitude,” he said.
“He was an incredible figure who helped me out enormously. Liverpool Football Club owe this guy a debt of gratitude.
“To go on and play with him, rub shoulders with him, go into battles with him, he was iconic. He wanted and desired the points every week.
“Tommy was the epitome of what Bill Shankly demanded. He drove the team, he was incredible.”
Former Liverpool player and manager Kenny Dalglish added: “He was a great advert for Liverpool Football Club, the way he conducted himself. His memories will be there forever.”
Ray Clemence was one of the Liverpool goalkeepers who benefitted from Smith’s defensive excellence.
“So desperately sorry to hear of the passing of Tommy Smith a real legend of the club. Honoured to play with him. Great captain and leader of men thoughts are with family and friends,” Clemence said.