Terry Smith (football)

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Terry Michael Smith (born May 1959) is an American-born American football player, sports coach and businessman. After starting his playing career as a defensive back for American football franchise New England Patriots, Smith went on to coach the Great Britain Spartans American football team. He later spent two years as owner of English soccer club Chester City from 1999 to 2001, and appointed himself as manager following the resignation of Kevin Ratcliffe.[1][2]


Smith started his professional American football playing career in the early 1980s, as a defensive back with the New England Patriots. However, he injured his knee in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and was placed on the injured reserve list.[2] After a period coaching in Britain with the Spartans, Smith turned his attention to soccer. He bought Chester City Football Club in July 1999, and declared his belief that the club could reach Division One (now the Football League Championship) within three years.[3] 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 board.[4]

Manager Kevin Ratcliffe quit the job four games into the season.[1] Despite by his own admission having little knowledge of soccer, Smith appointed himself as the leader of a five-man coaching team, in the role of team manager.[5][6]

In Smith's four months in charge of team affairs, Chester were thrashed 5–1 and 4–1 by Leyton Orient and Carlisle United respectively, and required a replay to overcome non-league minnows Whyteleafe in the FA Cup.[7] However they did find success in the League 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. However they lost 6–0 (on aggregate) to Premier League Aston Villa in the Second Round. His methods included reading aloud the Lord's Prayer during the pre-match team talk, and appointing captains for the defence, midfield and attack.[6]

Ian Atkins was brought in as director of football in a bid to avoid relegation. Going into the final game of the season, Chester were 23rd, and faced a three–way battle with Shrewsbury Town and Carlisle United to avoid the drop to the Football Conference.[8] Due to Shrewsbury's 2-1 win at Exeter City and Chester's home defeat by Peterborough United, Chester were relegated from the league on the final day of the 1999–2000 season.[9][10]

Atkins left, and fan favourite Graham Barrow returned as manager, as did another former manager, Harry McNally in a consultancy role. Barrow completely rebuilt the team, and his side managed a respectable ninth place and won the Conference Trophy in the 2000-01 season, and were mentioned as possible promotion contenders for the next season. In spite of this, Smith sacked Barrow, branding the season a failure, and appointed Gordon Hill, who he also stated was the manager he wanted to appoint instead of Barrow.[citation needed]

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.[11] Smith returned to his homeland, and worked as an American football coach at a high school in North Carolina. In 2003, a British court ordered Chester City to repay £300,000 in unpaid loans to Smith and his family.[12]


  1. ^ a b Hodgson, Guy (6 October 1999). "Rocky ride for white knight of Chester". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Patriots chop seven". Sun Journal. 24 August 1982. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "The great Chester soap opera". BBC Sport. 13 August 2001. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Buckley, Will (6 December 1999). "Survival spirit from Mr Smith". The Observer. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Conn, David (3 May 2001). "Supporters fear for American's Chester dream". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Howell, Mark (July 2000). "Deva and out". When Saturday Comes. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Chester 1999/00". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Table: 02.05.2000". Tony Brown. Statto. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "Results and matches on: Sat, 6 May 2000". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "English Division Three 1999-2000: Table". Tony Brown. Statto. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "Chester back on track". BBC Sport. 27 October 2001. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "Smith's troubles cross Atlantic". Liverpool Echo. 19 September 2003. Retrieved 27 February 2011.