Pentre Issa, Broughton, Denbighshire born outside left Fred Smallwood began his football career with Llanerch Celts in 1930 and joined Third Division (North) Wrexham in September 1933 as an amateur, making his Football League debut against New Brighton in April 1934, his only appearance for them, scoring in a 5-4 victory. While with Wrexham he also won Welsh amateur international honours. He joined near neighbours Chester in September 1934, turning professional a month later and made one appearance for them, on New Year’s Day 1935 in a 1-1 draw with Tranmere Rovers.
He joined Cheshire League club Macclesfield Town in the summer of 1935, where his 35 goals in 52 appearances for The Silkmen clearly alerted the scouts, and from there he was signed by Second Division Southampton in June 1936. He was one of several players recruited by new manager George Goss and replaced Laurie Fishlock, who was unavailable as he was on a tour of Australia with the England cricket team. Smallwood made his debut for The Saints in the opening match of the 1936-37 season, scoring in a 3-2 victory over Chesterfield. Described as “a small but nippy left-winger”, Smallwood only missed one match in his first season at The Dell and scored ten goals.
Smallwood was a superstitious player, who would always carry a lucky rabbit’s foot in the pocket of his shorts on match days. In the summer of 1937, he was injured in a pre-season warm-up match and lost his place to Harry Osman. In the 1937-38 season, Smallwood managed only eight appearances, usually playing at outside left. At the end of the season, he refused a new contract and moved to Third Division (South) Reading after 49 appearances for The Saints. He remained with Reading until the start of the Second World War, making 51 appearances, scoring 17 goals. Smallwood retired from professional football during the War, but in wartime football had also made guest appearances for Wrexham, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Hartlepool United by that time.