Dave Smith RIP

Dave Smith: 1933-2022

We are temporarily suspending our media blackout to express our deep sadness at learning of the death of former Argyle manager Dave Smith, aged 88.

Smith took over as Argyle boss in December 1984. In his first full campaign as manager, the 1985/86 season, he led us to second place, and promotion to the second division, which is now the Championship.

He was affectionately known as Ciderman, and settled in the area after his retirement from management, continuing to coach youngsters and retaining his huge enthusiasm for the game.

Born in Dundee in 1933, Smith began his playing career at Burnley, for whom he played sporadically throughout the 1950s, when they were one of the top sides in the country. After a few games for Brighton and Hove Albion and Bristol City, Smith hung up his playing boots before the age of 30.

He was about to embark on the career that he was born for – coaching.

Smith did not become a league manager immediately. Indeed, it would be more than a decade after his last game that he was appointed as manager of Mansfield Town. Before then, he took charge of the Libyan national team and had coaching stints with Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United and Arsenal, where he was reserve team manager.

His two years as Mansfield boss included promotion from the old fourth division as champions, before heading to Southend United, where he would spend seven years. Once again, in his second season, he led a side to promotion from the fourth tier. They were relegated shortly afterwards, but Smith stayed at the helm for yet another promotion, this time as Division Four champions.

He left Southend in mid-1983 and, after a while out of the game, arrived at Argyle with The Pilgrims struggling in the third division. He steadied the ship, then embarked on a memorable campaign in 1985/86.

Ten players played 40 or more games that season, with five getting into double figures on the goalscoring front. Russell Coughlin, Garry Nelson, Kevin Hodges and John Clayton all reached that mark, as did a player who played just nine games.

Tommy Tynan had scored 31 goals the previous season, but had moved to Rotherham United in the summer of 1985. Smith tempted Tynan back to Home Park on loan for the run-in, and Tommy fired in ten goals as Argyle finished in sensational style.

The Greens won 13 of the last 15 games, including a nine-game winning run, to clinch promotion in the penultimate game. Tynan scored twice, along with a goal each from Nelson and Coughlin, in a 4-0 win on a glorious Home Park night against Bristol City.

The following season, Argyle finished seventh in the second tier, the highest position we have finished in in the last 60 years.

Smith would depart Home Park in 1988, for a short spell as manager of hometown club Dundee, and although it did not work out for him on Tayside, he would soon return to Devon for another successful job.

Technically, Smith was not the manager who got Torquay United promoted in 1991, as he left the club a few weeks before the season ended, but he built the squad that would ultimately reach the fourth division play-off final and be promoted following a penalty shoot-out win over Blackpool.

His spell at Plainmoor would be Dave’s final managerial job, and he retired from the professional game. However, he established his own soccer school, and continued to stay involved in coaching young footballers for many years.

To speak about Dave Smith purely in football terms, though, would be to do the man a disservice. He was known to regularly quote poetry, and most who knew him commented on his jovial character, his love for football – and for life.

He remained a much-loved figure around the club and the area, residing at Wembury, and was the subject of an occasion held by Argyle Legends and the Argyle Archive in 2019, in which they surprised Smith with a ‘This is Your Life’ style event.

And what a life. Mansfield and Southend fans will talk about him in terms of him being one of the greatest managers in their clubs’ histories.

As will we. In a 2019 survey of the Green Army, Smith was voted as the second-greatest manager in the club’s history.

Our sincere condolences go to all of Dave’s family and friends.

The club will plan an appropriate tribute to Dave and his achievements at Home Park in the coming weeks, once the period of mourning for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II - who passed away on the same day as Smith - has been observed.

Thank you, Dave, for everything.