Huddersfield Town’s new kit marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest days in the club’s history – and has revealed one family’s remarkable century-long connection to the club.
The new home strip celebrates the first – and only – time the club lifted the FA Cup in 1922.
The names of the players from that famous side are etched into the neck of the 2021-22 home shirt, a proud moment for the family of Billy Smith, the man who scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Preston North End.
Billy’s grandson Robert, granddaughter Liz and great-granddaughter Mollie all attended the kit launch and were bursting with pride.
While many will know Billy’s legendary status at Town – he made a club record 574 appearances over 21 years – few will realise just how steeped in the club’s history the Smith family are.
Billy played for the Terriers between 1913 and 1934 and was part of the glorious Town side of the 1920s which won the league championship in three successive years.
After Billy retired, his son Conway took up the mantle playing for Town between 1945 and 1951. Conway’s son Robert never made it as a professional and played amateur football in and around Huddersfield – but he does have his own Town claim to fame.
Robert played in a local cup final which proved to be the last ever game played on the Leeds Road pitch, after Town’s final league game against Blackpool in 1994.
Amazingly, Billy’s legacy stretches into the latest generation with great-granddaughter Mollie, 18, being a footballer too – and also having played for Huddersfield Town Women.
The Smith family joined relatives of Ernie Islip and Clem Stephenson at the kit launch and Liz, said: “It was fantastic to go down and meet the other families and see the new shirt.
“We love the shirt and are very proud that granddad’s name is on it. It all came as a bit of a surprise really but the club told us they have been planning it for a few years.
“When you look at his career it’s quite incredible really the things he achieved.”
As well making more Town appearances than anyone before or since, Billy scored 126 goals for the club. He was the first player ever to score from a corner, which came in a 4-0 demolition of Arsenal in 1925 as Town clinched their second title triumph.
Having won three titles and secured an FA Cup winners’ medal, Billy also won three caps for England and played in the 5-1 defeat to Scotland in 1928.
His career at Town almost didn’t happen when he apparently played hard ball when it came to contract negotiations.
He wrote to the club’s board in September 1913 saying he wouldn’t play for less than 50 shillings a week (£2.50 in today’s money). That dispute was sorted and the rest, as they say, is history.
Having had a terrific career he retired in 1934 playing his last game against Sheffield United where he grabbed two goals.
Billy suffered a sad demise when a mistreated football injury meant his leg had to be amputated. He subsequently died of cancer in 1951, aged 55.
Billy, of course, got to see his son Conway play for Town and Conway’s son Robert, 61, recalled: “My dad used to tell us stories about Billy. My dad had a good career too and could have played for England himself. However, he broke his leg in 1951. After recovering he moved to QPR. He sadly passed away in 1989.”
Billy and Conway were the first father and son duo to score more than 100 goals apiece during their careers.
Robert also recalled that last-ever game at Leeds Road and said: “My manager and friend Alan Sweeney and me had been to watch the last Town game at Leeds Road v Blackpool. We were due to play in this local league final but it rained so heavily we didn’t know if it was going to go ahead.
“It did go ahead in the end and they were demolishing the ground around us as we played. It was a real honour for me to play on the same pitch as my dad and grandfather. Unfortunately, we lost the final 1-0 but it was still a good experience.”
Robert’s daughter Mollie – Billy’s great granddaughter – is also a keen Town fan and has previously played for the Huddersfield Town Women’s team. She now plays for Hepworth.
Robert added: “I’m really proud of her, she loves the game. I enjoy watching the rawness of women’s football because there is no cheating and no egos, everyone just tries their best.”
The Smith family are determined to keep Billy’s memory alive and all his memorabilia together. This includes his medals and caps plus other precious items. They were bought by Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association and are kept at the stadium.
On Billy’s items Robert said: “The memorabilia belongs to the town of Huddersfield and to Town fans. We didn’t want to just sell it off, we always wanted it to be placed at the club where we know it’s safe and people can view it.”
Housed in the club boardroom and in a display cabinet outside supporters are able to view the collection of items.
Given the family’s history, is there another generation ready to play for Town in the future?
Liz said: “There are five girls in the family so we are hoping for another boy and from there you never know!
“We are extremely proud of our connection to the club over such a long period of time and who knows what might happen in the future?”