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 Manchester Spartans American Football Team, the Great Britain National Team for American Football, and the Great Britain Spartans American football team. He later spent two years as owner and general manager of English soccer club Chester City from 1999 to 2001, and served as manager following the resignation of Kevin Ratcliffe in 1999.[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 coaching in various U.S. Colleges, Smith went to Great Britain because he was signed as the Player/Head Coach of the Spartans,and due to his success there which included turning around a 2-10 team into a 14-0 undefeated team his first season, then he was chosen by the Great Britain National Governing Body as the Head Coach of the Great Britain National Team. Smith set many playing records including setting the League and National record for pass interceptions in a season, and setting the League and National record for pass receptions in a game. He had several 1,000 yard pass receiving seasons, and he was named to the All-European Team on several occasions. As a Head Coach he won two National Championships and two European Championships, one European Championship with the Manchester Spartans, and one European Championship with the Great Britain National Team. These were the first two European Championships in British American Football history.

He 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, and he was selected as the National Coach of the Year three times, and as the European Coach of the Year twice. 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. Smith turned his attention to soccer. He bought financially struggling 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] The Club was in Administration when he took over, and close to folding with more than 1 Million British Pounds in debt and almost all the veteran players already sold to other clubs to keep 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 board, which he did.[4]

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 League play, attempting to claim 350,000 British Pounds from an unknown contract.[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] He took over with almost all young players left on the roster after almost all of the veteran players had been sold during the Administration period. He kept these young players and tried to develop them in order to keep the player wages low so that the Club could try to pay off the 1 Million Pounds of debts.

Using this low budget strategy, along with increasing revenue through excellent 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, Shrewsbury, 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.[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. They lost to Premier League Club Aston Villa by a score of only 1-0 when Aston Villa scored on a penalty kick with only six minutes left following an inadvertent handball in the box, and lost in the return leg also(on aggregate) to Premier League Aston Villa in the Second Round. They also had success in the FA Cup as they made it to the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, 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, 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.[6]

Ian Atkins was brought in at mid-season at the start of January in 2000, as director of football/Manager in a bid to avoid relegation. But despite this, and despite increasing their player wage bill, 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 Football Conference.[8] Due to Shrewsbury's 2-1 win at Exeter City and Chester's 1-0 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, an ex-Manchester United and England player.[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, with the Club completely out of debt other than what it owed him.[11] Smith returned to his homeland, and worked as a teacher, and American football coach and baseball coach at a high school in North Carolina, and then 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.[12] However, Smith still wanted to help the Club, and so he accepted a settlement of far less than half of that amount.


  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. ^ http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/chester-city/2003/09/19