Donegal, Ireland born centre half Ernest “Bert” Smith was a resident in South Africa when the First World War broke out, and he served with the South African Artillery in France and Salonika. As a footballer Smith gained early footballing experience when he played for The East Bengal States Railway Club in the Calcutta League while serving during the War, and he also played Army football. After the conflict had ended he signed for Cardiff City in July 1919, then in the Southern League, playing 40 matches as they finished fourth and, as the highest placed Welsh side, Cardiff City were invited to join the Football League Second Division.
Smith’s Football League debut was also with Cardiff in a 5-2 win at Stockport County on 28th August 1920. He was a virtual ever present for The Bluebirds over the next three seasons, gaining a reputation as one of the club’s finest ever defenders. He helped the club to promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history, scoring their first First Division goal in a 2-1 defeat by Aston Villa.
Smith made his Ireland debut in a 2-0 defeat by Scotland at Windsor Park in February 1921. The Scots’ victory was recorded as well deserved, but Smith was noted as being prominent in the Irish half back line, thoroughly justifying his selection. It would be another year and a half before he took the field for Ireland again, but on that occasion he was awarded the captaincy as the Irish lost 2-0 against England at The Hawthorns. It was on his third international appearance that Smith first tasted victory, putting in a determined defensive display along with his fellow backs, as Ireland recorded a deserved 2-0 win over Wales at Wrexham. Another stout defensive performance in October 1923 allowed Ireland to record a rare victory over England at Windsor Park. It was a fitting finale for Smith’s brief but distinguished international career when he was capped four times for Ireland, all while a Cardiff player.
Smith joined Middlesbrough in January 1924 having scored 3 goals in 161 appearances for Cardiff, making his debut in a 2-1 defeat by Preston. He was a regular member of the side that finished bottom of the First Division, so suffering the first relegation in the club’s history. He retained his place in Boro’s defence at the start of the following season, but his form dipped and he was dropped after 21 appearances. With the club forced to settle for a disappointing mid-table finish on their return to the Second Division, Smith was sold on to Third Division (South) club Watford for £250 in August 1925, scoring once in 55 appearances for The Hornets. He finished his playing career with non-league Emsworth joining them on a free transfer in April 1927.