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The Englishman Who Transformed Benfica: My Granddad's Mate Ted Smith

by Michael Taylor
4 January 2014 17 Comments

Ex-Milwall full-back, pub-landlord and a footballing trailblazer who built the foundations for Benfica to topple Real Madrid...

Who was the English manager that triggered a revolution in European football, who transformed a club side that became of the giants of the modern game? Terry Venables? Nope. Sir Bobby Robson? Nah! Roy Hodgson? Come on!

No, the name Ted Smith will hardly register, but his extraordinary story is as dramatic for the gaps and mysteries as it is for the affect a journeyman Millwall footballer from Grays in Essex, had on the Benfica team he coached from 1948 to 1952 and challenged Real Madrid’s hegemony in the subsequent decade.

Indeed, while this was football revolution grew, the man who planted the seeds quietly retired from football and was running a pub in Lancaster, only occasionally dipping back into football with the local non-league side Lancaster City in 1967.

I stumbled across this story by accident. My grandfather, John Stanley Taylor, had been a Commando in the war, served his country heroically and was a man of some stature in the community in Lancaster where he moved to be the manager of Woolworths. He became friends with Ted Smith, pictured above left, who at the time was the landlord of the Red Cross pub in Skerton, just over the River Lune from the city centre.

But John Edward Smith, to give him his full name, had a back story. While he was pulling pints and smoking full strengths Capstans in a fairly dreary concrete riverside pub, the Benfica team he built were lifting the European Cup; first in 1961 and then again in 1962. The captain of the team was the legendary Jose Aguas, the lynchpin of a side that went on to break Real Madrid’s dominance of European football in the 1960s, then defeating Barcelona.

Smith had brought Aguas, from a poor white colonial family in Angola, to Portugal and the two had a strong bond. I know this because my own Dad witnessed their emotional reunion outside the Park Lane Hotel in London in 1962 when Benfica were in town for the European Cup semi final at White Hart Lane against the double winning Spurs side.

As a player Smith had been decent full back with Millwall, playing 143 times and scoring just once. Small pieces of Pathe news archives show him training in 1938 and introducing the Millwall team to King George VI, a sight which his son delights in as he was to young to see him play.


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After England stuffed Portugal 10-0 in May 1947, with Finney and Matthews starring, it was decided to search for an English coach.

How Smith came be in the right place at the right time is a mystery, or just a piece of good timing. Even his son Harvey has told me only the sketchy details he has learned; his father passed away in 1993 and is buried in the English cemetery in Lisbon, where Benfica looked after him in his final years, respect and love from a fine club who remembered a hero of their history. But there are huge gaps in his life.

Almost as soon as Smith moved to Lisbon in 1948 he quickly made changes. As well as attracting players from the Portuguese colonies, like Aguas, he also introduced a form of health service between the local people in a poor area of Lisbon, and the club.

On the pitch he worked wonders too. Benfica broke the dominance of Sporting, by winning the 1949 Cup. He then built on that and won the 1951 championship, added 2 more cups and Benfica’s first international title, the Taca Latina, the ancestor of the European Cup, featuring clubs from France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The record books show he retired for ‘personal reasons’ and though skipping his job as coach, he kept a link to Benfica as youth coach.

Another side to his character was a jealousy as his attractive wife proved the centre of attention from the Portuguese players and hangers on at the club.

Smith sent his family back to England, tried to go it alone for a while, but eventually followed them home. His life appeared torn, though he fell in love with Portugal its people and its culture, especially the music of Fado, it became a burden to him.

He briefly returned to football in the unlikeliest of jobs – a newspaper cutting from the Lancaster Guardian rather nonchalantly reports how “Mr Ted Smith, the former Benfica coach,” became the manager of Lancaster City FC in 1967, as if that achievement was on a par with joining from Barrow or Bamber Bridge.

He returned briefly to management at Portuguese side Atletico from 1971 to 1973, but it seems remarkable that so little is known of his life and his achievements.

Even his own son, Harvey, has bitter sweet memories.

“My father went missing in the early 70′s a great man manager but pretty crap as a dad, I never saw him again I found out he had gone back to Portugal ending up in the Acores where he again proved his talents as a football coach.”

Running a pub in the north of England, and later in the Lake District, could never capture that romance in his life again.

Harvey has told me: “There is so much that I don’t remember and most of the medals and trophies my dad acquired over his time in football have gone, lost or stolen however every thing I read from his time in Portugal assures me that he was most highly regarded. There are quotes of him as being part of the club’s history, the layer of the club’s foundations and a beloved son of a great club.”


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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Pete D 2:37 pm, 23-Feb-2013

Great story. Benfica are a great club with a real respect for its history.

MUFC 6:04 pm, 27-Mar-2013

I know the family very well and worked with Ted Smith's grandaughter. Great story to listen to.

Sue Beninson 2:56 pm, 28-Mar-2013

This story is written about my Grandad. My mum, his eldest child now lives near Lisbon in Portugal, where Ted Smith is still remembered fondly.

Harvey Smith 8:14 pm, 25-Jul-2013

Thank you Michael,read with a tear in my eye

Harvey Smith 8:30 pm, 25-Jul-2013

Read with pleasure and a tear in my eye,thank you Michael.

Vickie Foxcroft - Ted Smith's daughter 11:12 am, 27-Aug-2013

Great to be reminded of my dad and his time with Benfica. Being five years older than Harvey, I remember a little more as I had just turned seven when we moved to Portugal. My first memory was the day my mother, brother and I flew into Lisbon to join. It was Harvey's second birthday and we went to a toy shop where dad bought him a red pedal car. I was bemused by all the people with us - this turned out to be the press as the next day all the papers had photo,s etc. of "his" family arriving. This was my introduction to my dad's fame in Portugal. Benfica's first Stadium of Light (the present one is the second) was built because of their success with my father. He was a very jealous man but I think he left Portugal for more than that reason. The football fraternity did not receive the large wages as now. I attended an expensive private school in Lisbon and with Harvey due to start school I think economics played a part in his departure but we will never know the whole truth. My dad's love of Benfica and Portugal was always with him. However I don't think he was a bad dad and always knew he loved me, even when we didn't get on. My husband and I visited dad in the Azores and I went back there when he was diagnosed with cancer. Thank you again Michael for bringing back some great memories. Incidently I slightly remember your grandfather, a tall, slender man and the manager at Woolworth.

Vickie Foxcroft - Ted Smith's daughter 11:19 am, 27-Aug-2013

Great memories, Great Benfica coach and great dad. Being 5 years older I remember more than Harvey. Visited dad a couple of times in the Azores and had contact till he died

Vickie Foxcroft - Ted Smith's daughter 11:20 am, 27-Aug-2013

Want to know more, contact me

alfredo marques 4:46 pm, 18-Sep-2013

As i mostly see comments by family members and friends i would like to pay my tribute as an "outsider" who never knew him but acknowledges what Mr. Smith did for the club of my heart. As mentioned already above his arrival in Lisbon could be described as the beginning of the glorious times. His ideas and methods that he implemented, quickly showed being successful and the fans of Benfica (and there are many) loved him. Maybe the respect and admiration he felt, turned to be the reason why he never lost the linkage to the club. I don't know what made him leave the club, maybe there were financial reasons as Benfica often turend out to be a bit tight in such points. But i'm sure it wasn't anything about the quality of his work or the dedication he showed. The new Museum has opened a few weeks ago, and him being mentioned there makes out of him what he already is: an immortal piece of our clubs history! Feel free to contact me for a chat:

Brian 11:41 am, 19-Dec-2013

Hi,i live in Portugal and i am attempting to write a book on British football managers in Portugal.One of them is Ted Smith,i would be most grateful if Harvey Smith or Vicky Foxcroft would get in touch with me,

Tom Fairhall 5:13 pm, 4-Jan-2014

Great story and why again was a successful coach not properly utilised when he came back to the UK his achievements abroad must of been reported and known back here, what job did he return to after Benfica couldn't of just been to own a pub?

Greg Smith 11:14 am, 5-Jan-2014

My uncle. Three brothers from his brother Roy will journey to Benifica this year 2014 to visit the club and pay our respects to Ted. One from Australia and two from PNG. Smith's sure did travel near and far.

Greg Smith 11:24 am, 5-Jan-2014

My uncle. Three Smith brothers will travel from Australia, and PNG to vist Benfica and pay respects to Ted. He was one of five children, and a gifted football coach. Even though he was a great player for Millwall his heart was for Benfica.

Michael Taylor 11:41 pm, 2-Mar-2014

Keen to do more with this amazing story. Met people from the Benfica museum last year to talk more. If any of the family or Benfica people want to contact me, please do via email.

John Sanders 11:50 pm, 7-Apr-2014

Hi, Ted Smith was my uncle,but as my wife and I emigrated and spent nearly thirty years in South Africa I lost touch. But I remember when I was about 14 my family broke up and my mother sent me off to stay with uncle Ted and auntie Eileen where at this time he was living in Workington in Cumbria and was managing workington town football club.I lived with them for quite some time and got to know Vicki and Harvey very well, but lost touch with them all when returning to my mother. It has allways been my intention to find out his resting place and very pleased to see he is buried in Lisbon as I had read another article stating that he was buried in the Azores. Would like to know when the Smith Brothers are intending visiting Benfica as I would like to meet up, so if they read this article please get in touch. Regards John

Vickie Foxcroft - Ted Smith's daughter 12:31 pm, 10-Apr-2014

Long lost cousin John, was great to read your comments. Please get in touch. Remember you well and often wondered about you and your sister Pat (though didn't meet her) As far as I know Aussie Smiths not visiting though Harvey and I will be visiting Benfica in June. email:

Harvey Smith 10:31 am, 12-Apr-2014

Message to cousin great to hear from you I remember you from Workington and always wondered how you got on seems like you inherited the Smith wanderlust,my own daughter was in South Africa a while ago.It would be great if you could get in touch.AS regards the question raised in the blog my dads only venture into football on returning to the UK was a stint at Workington Reds and Lancaster.My dad had some input into the great Bill Shanklys arrival at Liverpool having been at the FA coaching school with him and Shankly going to Huddersfield and then Workington.My dad had fallen in love with Portugal its culture its people and especially Benfica,nothing else came close to giving him the same feelings as his time with the great club. Any one wishing to contact me my email is

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