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Former Mansfield, Southend, Plymouth, Torquay boss dies, aged 88

There has been some incredibly touching tributes paid as former Mansfield, Southend, Plymouth, Torquay boss Dave Smith dies, aged 88.

The Scotland-born ex-footballer turned manager was best known for his time in football management, but previously had spells with Burnley, Brighton and Bristol City as a full back.

He took charge of five clubs, winning promotion with the first three of them, Mansfield Town, Southend United and Plymouth Argyle.

He was part of the coaching staff when Newcastle won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 and also briefly managed home town club Dundee.

His final job came at Torquay United, which ended in 1991, and after that, carried on living in the area of Devon and remained part of the local football scene in Plymouth for the past three decades.

Smith guided both Mansfield and Southend to the old Division Four title, and led Plymouth out of the old Division Three in 1986 before finishing 7th in the second tier the following season – Argyle’s highest position in the past 60 years.


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.


Southend United are deeply saddened by the passing of our much-loved former manager Dave Smith.

Born in Dundee in 1933 he would become one of the most popular and charismatic managers in the club’s history.

As a player Dave had started his career as a youngster with Burnley. He spent 11 seasons at Turf Moor but made less than 100 League appearances, his progress being hampered by terrible injury problems.

Remarkably, during his playing career, Dave would break his leg on no less than five occasions. At the end of the 1960/61 season, he was given a free transfer by legendary Clarets manager, Harry Potts, whose empathy, man management and motivational skills would help Smith greatly in his own management career.

In July 1961 he joined Second Division Brighton and Hove Albion, but could not establish a regular place in the side. At the age of 29, his injury-ravaged playing career ended with a brief spell at Bristol City.

He then became a coach at Sheffield Wednesday and with manager Alan Brown guided The Owls to the FA Cup Final in 1966. He then joined Joe Harvey at Newcastle as coach, and during a highly successful spell, saw The Magpies defeat Ujpest Dozsa in the final of the Inter City Fairs Cup in 1969.

He also enjoyed a brief spell in charge of the national team of Libya. In the early 1970’s, Smith became reserve team manager at Arsenal before taking his first managerial job in the Football League at Mansfield Town in 1974. In his first season at Field Mill, he took the Stags to the Fourth Division title and the quarter finals of the League Cup.

In May 1976 he took over from Arthur Rowley as Southend manager, becoming the first Scotsman to hold that position since Bob Jack, the club’s first ever manager.

In his second season at Roots Hall he guided Blues back to the Third Division and was offered a four year contract. However, with his side suffering a goalscoring crisis, the club suffered a shock relegation at the end of the 1979/80 season. Blues chairman Frank Walton warned that promotion would be required if Smith was to remain in the job.

The genial Scot had anticipated his words by signing two new strikers in Keith Mercer and Derek Spence. They were to prove to be the missing pieces in the Smith masterplan.

A cast iron defence of keeper Cawston and a back line of Stead, Yates, Moody and Cusack was augmented with Smith’s persistence in the use of wingers, a practice that was not at all en vogue at the time.

The new line up was sensational as Blues won Division Four, our first major trophy, shattering many club records. Progress was maintained with a healthy seventh place in Division Three during 1981/82.

However, the following campaign was to prove something of a watershed. With ownership of the club changing hands, Dave found himself unceremoniously dismissed by the new owner via telegram whilst on holiday in Tenerife.

After a period out of football Dave went on to manage Plymouth Argyle and, during a memorable spell, guided the West Country club to within three points of the play-offs for a First Division place in 1986/87.

In the 1987/88 season he returned to his hometown to briefly manage Dundee. He then left the game for a while, before returning to Devon in 1989 to manage Torquay United for two seasons, although he had decided to retire weeks before they too won promotion via the play-offs.

Dave Smith was a truly inspirational manager who could be tough talking but understanding to his players’ needs, and his love of football was always evident.

He is still remembered so very fondly by all Blues fans who witnessed his exciting teams in full flight.

Southend United Football Club extend our deepest condolences to his wife Joyce, his family, and friends at this very sad time.

Senior career

1950–1961 – Burnley 99 games – (1 goal)
1961–1962 – Brighton & Hove Albion – 15 games (0 goals)
1962 – Bristol City – 3 games (0 goals)
Total – 117 games (1 goal)

Teams managed
1974–1976 – Mansfield Town
1976–1983 – Southend United
1984–1988 – Plymouth Argyle
1988–1989 – Dundee
1989–1991 – Torquay United

Fans sent their condolences after the former Mansfield, Southend, Plymouth, Torquay boss dies, aged 88…

@t1ngs22: RIP Dave. Have many fond memories of being coached by Dave as kid. 💚

@KysenGaming: RIP Dave Smith who taught me how to play football when I was just a boy. He gave his life to the sport and helped thousands of kids in the local area. A good man has passed today ❤️

@WendySouthgat10: RIP DAVE SMITH you were the best manager Argyle ever had. You will be sadly missed by the Club and Fans.

@StansburyDarren: Sad times. Absolute legend and a top gentleman RIP x

@grrooves: Have one on me up there Ciderman. You’ll be sorely missed. 💚

@Martynking: Rest easy Dave, gave some of us memories that will last forever 💚

@strace42: What a promotion season that was. Tommy Tynan was a goal machine the last 10 games or so. Dave Smith was a fantastic manager 👏 #RIP Ciderman

@dargooner: RIP Dave, great manager and a lovely bloke. Always had time for the fans. 🖤💚

@DCEyn: Such fantastic memories. In my childhood years that was peak Argyle. RIP

@TORQUAYTALK: RIP Dave – a wonderful character who always made time to talk to supporters during his time as manager at Plainmoor 💛 #tufc

@RenzucC97: Dave Smith. Always included, never excluded. Funny, intelligent and caring for every one of his players and their families. Rest In Peace, coach. ‘One Dave Smith’ 💚⚽️ #pafc

@ray_mansell: loved him to bits,always willing to chat to fans during & after he retired from football, stayed local, will be greatly missed RIP Ciderman 💚💚💚🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬

@benjieward: RIP Ciderman. First team I saw when growing up.

@BarnsleyGreen: A lovely club tribute to a lovely man. Still remember being invited into his office as a child when I visited HP with my dad and him signing the back of the team photo I’d just bought. It was the day after we’d lost at Cardiff in the cup and he was writing his report. #RIPCiderMan

@lizfarmer1965: Fond memories of this incredible man running football coaching schools in the holidays … both my boys aged 24 and 28 regularly attended…

@josh_ebling: Wish I got to see him ! One of the argyle greats will be missed ciderman 💚

@Mikey3_: As a kid, I loved going to his coaching schools every summer. One of the very best.

@Sneag2: Dave Smith is still an absolute legend at Mansfield, he produced the best side I’ve ever seen at Field Mill, between 74-76 he won the 4th Div & had 2 great cup runs. Following his scandelous sacking, it was his squad that won the 76/77 3rd Div title.

@pauld2501: May he rest in peace! Dave was a true Gentleman and would always stop and take time to talk to you and share his football memories! Rest in Peace Dave

@sufc_harry: Rest in peace dave 🙏

@rootshall92: 🦐 Legend. Condolences to family and friends.

@mickyk1964: Great manager. That 80/81 season was brilliant. Thanks Dave.

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