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Albert Smith 

 

 

 

Albert Smith was born in 1861 in Bilston, where his father was a schoolmaster. About ten years later Albert’s father moved to a school in Moseley and the family settled in the village. Smith, a halfback or three-quarter, first joined Moseley in 1874 and came to prominence two years later when he became a regular in the first team. He was the club’s first star player and his period of captaincy was one of the outstanding periods in the club’s history.

 Albert was said to have a fine physique and just the right sort of build for a centre in the days before the four three-quarter system. He was described as 'a strong runner and excellent tackler who combined good drop kicking with accurate place kicking' and whose 'pace and dodging powers were abnormal’ as ‘was his handing-off.’ He ‘was also acknowledged to be the finest drop-kick in the game, with the single exception of the immortal English Captain Lennard Stokes of Blackheath.’ Many considered that Albert Smith should have been capped by England but in his playing days very few men outside London or the Universities were chosen to play for the national side.

Having led the side on occasions during 1878/79 Albert Smith was chosen as Moseley captain in 1879/80 and continued to lead the side for the remarkable period of ten seasons a period during which there were many notable matches. In the past various accounts of Moseley’s history have claimed that during the first three seasons of Albert Smith’s captaincy the club were unbeaten, however, no reliable records survive for the period prior to 1881/82 and in March 1880 the Birmingham Daily Post carried a report of a match in which Moseley, in Smith’s absence, were heavily defeated at Manchester Rangers by one goal and ten tries to nil. So much for the unbeaten season!

At the beginning of the 1880/81 season Moseley, led by Albert Smith, visited the East Midlands and became the first ever opponents of the famous Leicester ‘Tigers.’ The game ended either as a draw or as a Moseley victory. The reason for the uncertainty was that immediately prior to ‘no side’ one of the Moseley forwards, Denston Gibson, scored a disputed try and in those days there were no referees merely an umpire from each side. The dispute rumbled on for about a week and then seems to have been forgotten and the two clubs played again later in the season. Under Albert Smith’s leadership Moseley remained unbeaten during 1880/81.

During 1881/82 Smith made two appearances for the Midland Counties representative side in the victory over Surrey at the Old Deer Park, Richmond and in the defeat by Lancashire at Coventry. Moseley was well represented in both fixtures, having six players, including Smith, in each match. It is not clear if these were Smith’s first games for the Counties side, as the newspaper reports of the team’s earlier matches do not contain lists of the players taking part. Smith converted all three of the Midlands’ tries in the Surrey game and although he missed a conversion against Lancashire ‘he distinguished himself…by some clever dribbling.’

The Midland Counties Football Union inaugurated a challenge cup competition in 1881/82 and Moseley, under Albert Smith’s leadership, progressed to the final. The club’s opponents were South Warwickshire Rovers, a team from Leamington Spa, who were defeated by three goals and three tries to nil. This victory ended another successful season for Moseley during which, as in the previous campaign, they did not lose a match.

Albert Smith was again selected for the Midland Counties side in 1882/83 and appeared in the team that was defeated by Lancashire at Whalley Range. He almost certainly also played in the defeat against Gloucestershire, at Coventry, later in the season when ‘O. Smith’ of Moseley was listed in the three-quarters. During the same season Smith led Moseley in its first game with one of the strong Northern clubs when a ‘hard-earned victory’ at home was gained against Halifax. Later in the season Smith once more led Moseley in the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup, on this occasion, against Burton. The holders were unable to retain the cup, however,  as ‘Burton scored a fortunate win’ by two goals to one goal and two tries. In those days games were decided on a majority of goals scored therefore although Moseley outscored their opponents by three tries to two only one of them was converted to Burton’s two.

Albert Smith opened the 1883/84 season by leading Moseley and kicking three conversions in the first ever match at The Reddings, on 6th October, when Leicester were defeated by three goals and two tries to nil. A few weeks after this first game at the club’s new home Moseley travelled to London and narrowly defeated a strong Richmond side by a goal to a try, the winning score being a Smith conversion. The London clubs and the Universities dominated Rugby at this time, this result therefore gained Moseley much kudos. Later in the season Albert Smith once more played for the Midland Counties in their game with Lancashire at The Reddings. There were six Moseley players in the home side but it was not an enjoyable afternoon because the visitors won by six goals and three tries to nil. Moseley’s season was concluded with a third consecutive appearance in the Midland Counties Challenge Cup final, on this occasion, against Coventry. As in the previous year’s final the peculiar scoring system of the day settled the match. Coventry scored three tries but as none of these were converted an Albert Smith dropped goal ensured that the cup returned to The Reddings once more.

During the first half of the 1884/85 season Albert Smith played for a Birmingham side against a District side at The Reddings. The district seemed to stretch for many miles because the side included players from Burton, Leicester, Rugby, Stoke and Wolverhampton. The match was won easily by the ‘home’[1] side by a goal and four tries to nil. At the end of 1884/85, as in the three previous seasons, Smith led Moseley to the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup where they defeated South Warwickshire Rovers by four goals and one try to nil.

Smith led Moseley to two notable achievements in the latter half of 1885/86 but missed one of the greatest triumphs in the club’s history. Firstly, in February, Northampton, who had not been defeated during the season, were beaten, at The Reddings, by a Moseley side that, according to the Birmingham Daily Post,was ‘not up to their usual form.’ Two months later the club again contested the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup, this time against Rugby. The only scores in a well-contested game were three touchdowns by Rugby in their own in-goal area, which in those days was sufficient for Moseley to retain the cup. Smith was absent for the final game of 1885/86 when the hitherto undefeated Cardiff club were beaten at the Arms Park to ruin their hope of an invincible campaign. It is not known why he missed the game because none of the newspaper accounts comment on his absence.

Albert’s younger brother Alfred Mellon ‘Melly’ Smith made his debut for Moseley in 1885/86 and played alongside his brother in the back line for a number of seasons and they were joined, in 1887/88, by brother Rupert who also played behind the scrum. Under Albert Smith’s captaincy Moseley again reached the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup in 1886/87, the club’s fifth consecutive final appearance. On this occasion their opponents once again were Rugby and in a match in which Albert Smith played ‘with rare judgement’ Moseley won by two goals and a try to nil. They had now won the cup for the fourth season in a row and the fifth time overall. Three weeks later Smith and eight of his club colleagues played for a Birmingham side against North Warwickshire in a match that was part of a charity festival held at the popular sporting venue of Aston Lower Grounds.

Albert Smith’s last season as captain, 1888/89, witnessed one of the club’s greatest achievements and the highlight of his period of captaincy, when, in the second match of the season, the New Zealand Natives or Maoris were defeated at The Reddings. Prior to the game most commentators thought that the tourists would win easily, however, in the event Moseley triumphed by two goals to one goal and one try thus becoming the first team to defeat the first tourists to Britain. Captain Smith converted both of the home side’s tries, neither kick being particularly easy. Smith was once more selected for the Midland Counties side in 1888/89 when he played in the away fixture with Oxford University and scored one of the visiting side’s tries in a victory by two tries to nil. He made another appearance, along with three Moseley colleagues, for the Counties later in the season in their second match with the touring Maoris, which was won by the visitors. In this his last season as club captain Albert Smith once more led Moseley to the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup where their opponents were Leicester who were defeated by two goals to nil, Smith’s contribution being a conversion and a ‘magnificent’ dropped goal. Remarkably this was Moseley’s sixth Midland Counties Cup win in the eight years of the competition’s existence and equally remarkably it was the fifth time that Albert Smith had dropped a goal in the final. Having captained Moseley for a decade Albert Smith retired from rugby at the end of the 1888/89 season.

During his time as Moseley F.C. captain Albert Smith also played for the Moseley Cricket Club first XI alongside his brothers Alfred, Rupert, Sydney and Arthur and led the side for a period of 12 years. Albert Smith was also a leading member of Moseley Golf Club serving as captain in 1911 and 1918 and as secretary for a period of 19 years (1906-1909 and 1923-1937). In 1925, at the age of 66, Albert won the club’s Nicholson Bowl in a 36-hole stroke play event and in 1932 and 1933 he became the first winner of the club’s 70 and Over Cup.

In his professional life Albert Smith initially helped his father as an assistant teacher before entering banking eventually becoming the manager of the Moseley branch of Lloyd’s Bank, a position he held for 25 years. Albert Smith died at his King’s Heath home in 1941 at the age of 80.

 

[1] Moseley was then in the Worcestershire parish of King’s Norton and did not become part of Birmingham until 1911.