Kinsley, Yorkshire born right half Tom Smalley began his football career with South Kirkby Colliery in 1930 and played for Barnsley reserves during 1930-31. As a schoolboy he also represented the Yorkshire County team. In his final year at South Kirkby he was prolific, scoring at least 50 goals in the season. Whilst playing for South Kirkby, he was spotted by a scout from Second Division Wolverhampton Wanderers who signed him in May 1931.
At the end of his first season with the Molineux club, Wolves won the Second Division Championship to return to the First Division after an absence of 26 years. Smalley had a “never-say-die” attitude which brought him to the attention of the England selectors who picked him to play at right-half for the Home Nations Championship match against Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff on 17th October 1936. England lost the match 2-1, with Wales going on to claim the Championship; Smalley was replaced in the next international against Ireland by Everton’s Cliff Britton and never played international football again.
Smalley helped Wolves reach the runners-up position in the First Division in 1937-38 before being sold to Norwich City for £4,500 in August 1938. In his seven years at Wolves, Smalley made 226 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice.
On joining Norwich, Smalley was appointed team captain and was ever-present during the 1938-39 season; Smalley’s experience, however, was not able to prevent Norwich finishing in the penultimate position in the table and they were relegated to the Third Division (South). Smalley played in the first three matches of the 1939-40 season before the League was abandoned following the outbreak of the Second World War, having scored once in 46 appearances for The Canaries.
Smalley remained at the Carrow Road club throughout the War but was transferred in October 1945 to fellow Third Division (South) club, Northampton Town where he “formed a formidable partnership with Bill Barron as the last outfield line of defence”, missing only 10 games in his five seasons at The County Ground and being an ever present twice. He remained with The Cobblers until 1951 when, in his fortieth year and having scored twice in 226 appearances for them, he joined non league Lower Gornal Athletic as player-coach.