Joseph Edward Smith, also known as “Stanley” in recognition of his home town, joining the Tigers from North Eastern League side West Stanley in September 1905 during the opening weeks of Hull City’s first ever season in the Football League. Joe was born in Boosbeck, an ironstone mining village in the uplands between Whitby and Redcar, to a father who was a colliery steam engineer. His father hailed from Cramlington in Northumberland but had worked in Skelton and Boosbeck in East Cleveland before settling in the Stanley area of the North Durham coalfield in the last years of the nineteenth century. Joe was trained as a plumber but found professional football was a means of leaving behind the hard slog of pit village life.
Joe made his City debut in the club’s sixth ever League game, a 1-1 draw against Burton United. Although better known as an outside right, Smith began his City career as a centre forward and scored a hattrick in his second game, an 8-2 demolition of Grimethorpe United in the FA Cup. By the end of November 1905 Joe had started ten games and scored 11 goals – a superb start for a 19 year old lad. As the season wore on Smith played more regularly on the left wing and contributed fewer goals but made plenty of chances for his strike colleagues Jackie Smith, Peter Howe and George Rushton. He ended his first season with 16 goals in 33 starts.
In 1906/07 season Smith again showed his versatility, playing at centre forward, inside right and inside left as well as a handful of starts on the wing. He scored fewer goals, seven, but was a pivotal figure in the City first team. During the next three seasons he settled into an outside right role and between September 1907 and November 1909 he missed only two of 94 League and Cup fixtures. Smith was reminded of the benefits of playing football for a living in February 1909 when his elder brother Ernest was killed along with 167 other men in the West Stanley pit disaster, an underground fireball that roared through two seams which was likely caused by a fault in an electricity generator. Smith missed only a few games over the next two years and despite a ten match absence in November and December 1911, the longest in his six years at Hull City, Smith was attracting the attention of First Division scouts during the early weeks of 1912. In March 1912 Joe Smith joined Everton, transferring along with his experienced defensive teammate Andy Browell and following hard on heels of Andy’s younger brother Tommy, a superb goalscorer who had moved from Anlaby Road to Goodison Park three months earlier.
Joe was given only ten starts by Everton in 18 months, and in August 1913 he moved to Ireland to play for Belfast Distillery. Within four months he was back in the North West of England playing for Bury, where he made 53 league appearances before World War One halted the Football League in the summer of 1915. It is likely that Smith spent time back in Stanley during the war, his plumbing and engineering skills being vital to the mining industry. Later Smith returned to Hull – he played one wartime game for Hull City in October 1916 followed by 33 games between September 1917 and April 1918. When the war ended and football resumed he was back living in County Durham and spent the 1919/20 season playing for West Stanley, once again reunited with his former City teammate Andy Browell. West Stanley advanced to the Second Round of the FA Cup that season, beating Rotherham County and Gillingham before losing 4-0 to Southern League side Tottenham Hotspur in the Second Round Proper.
Few details of Smith’s later life are available, he died in County Durham in 1948.
Date/Place of Birth: 17 June 1886, Boosbeck
Hull City First Game: 30 September 1905, Burton United H (Division Two), 19 years, 105 days old
Hull City Final Game: 24 February 1912, Stockport County H (Division Two), 25 years, 252 days old
West Stanley, Hull City (1905-1912), Everton (1912-1913), Belfast Distillery (1913), Bury (1913-1915), West Stanley (1919-1920)
Hull City Record
Career: 231 apps, 52 goalsJoe Smith