By Rob Stewart

A trio of former Huddersfield stars – spanning three generations of Town players – have united to pay tribute to Steve Smith ahead of his funeral.

Derek Parkin, Peter Hart and Peter Butler have come together to sing the praises of the Huddersfield-born Terriers legend following his death last month at the age of 77 following a long battle with dementia.

The Town old boys spoke out ahead of Smith’s funeral service, which will take place at the John Smith’s Stadium before he is laid to rest at Kirkheaton cemetery on Monday, April 8.

Described by former Town manager Ian Greaves as “the perfect professional”, Smith made 381 appearances for the club after joining the ground staff in October 1961.

Parkin, who became friends with Smith as they came through the Town ranks in the 1960s, led the tributes.

“I consider myself lucky to have met Steve after I left my hometown of Newcastle for Huddersfield because he helped me make it at Leeds Road,” Parkin said from his West Midlands home.

“We became lifelong friends after I ended living in digs at his parents’ home in Rawthorpe and as a family they could not have been more supportive or encouraging as I settled in.

“They were lovely people who not only made sure I had the best bedroom in the home whereas Steve was stuck in a pokey little room but they always provided plenty of emotional support.

“Steve and I always got on like a house on fire and Steve was very funny and a right bag of laughs when we went on holiday.”

Parkin became English football’s most expensive defender when he left Town for Wolves in an £80,000-deal in 1968 and believes Smith could have followed in his tracks.

“As well as being a smashing chap off the field, Steve was a tremendous player as well,” Parkin added.

“He went about his work without much fuss in lots of positions but wherever he was stationed, Steve was always there for his team-mates.

“He had all the attributes you need to be a good midfield player but I don’t think he himself really appreciated just how good he was.

“He was tremendously loyal to Town and he went into the club history books with the goal at Middlesbrough that got the club promoted to the old First Division.

“He was well respected and well liked and just got on with his job and did it ever so well.

“He could have moved on and played at the top level for longer but he’ll still go down in history as one of Town’s greatest servants.”

Smith rose to prominence as a winger where he kept supply lines open to Frank Worthington before taking up a variety of playing roles.

And after returning to the club under manager Mick Buxton, he served the club with distinction behind the scenes as chief scout, youth coach and reserve team coach.

Hart, who captained Town to the Fourth Division title in 1980 after playing alongside Smith, said the former Rawthorpe schoolboy was an inspiration to young up-and-coming players.

“Steve was a real beacon of light for us young lads as we tried to make it,” said Hart who is now a vicar in the West Midlands.

“He was a local lad who had come through the ranks and showed us all what could be done if you matched talent with the right attitude.

“He set a tremendous example to all of us because he went about his work in a disciplined and humble way.

“He’s one of a select band of Town players in the modern era who have represented the club in the top division of English football.

“But he was very much the modest hero who, in his quietly spoken, gentlemanly manner, was all about the team and club he loved.

“I had the good fortune to play alongside Steve and he was very supportive on and off the field which was the mark of the man and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Butler came through the ranks at Town under Smith and Buxton before playing top-tier football with West Ham and he attributes his success to his former youth team coach.

“Steve Smith, what can I say about him?” smiled Butler, who is now the Bangladesh Football Federation youth development coach.

“He was a quietly spoken, gentle soul who had such a great manner with people. He helped shape my football career, starting as a young 13-year-old at Town.

“I really do consider myself fortunate to have come through the ranks under Steve’s watch. I will never forget him saying to me – too many times – stay on your feet, don’t dive in, you cannot fight the world, control your aggression.

“He had such a placid, easy-going manner but underneath that he had a tough streak as well. Fair and honest, we had him in circles at times! How on earth he kept on top of us, I often would wonder.

“I’ll always be grateful to Steve for taking me out of Boothtown and helping me use the skills and tools I have which shaped my life.

“RIP Steve – you had such a positive effect on many youngsters’ careers. God bless.”

The funeral service will take place at the John Smith’s Stadium on Monday April 8 at 11am. Fans are invited but everyone should arrive by 10.30am.

Former Huddersfield Town boss Mick Buxton pays tribute to club legend Steve Smith who has died aged 77