Whitburn, County Durham born right half Septimus “Sep” Smith was the seventh son born to his parents, of whom four others became professional footballers. Having started his football career playing for Whitburn, he joined Leicester City in March 1929 signed by manager Willie Orr as a 16 year old inside-forward and he made his Football League debut at Huddersfield Town that August, a match which would prove his only appearance in his debut season coming in for Arthur Lochhead who had been suffering from illness. He top scored for the reserves the following season and earning himself a recall to the first team, scoring twice in 11 outings. In 1931-32 he scored 11 times in 22 matches as he began to cement his place in the first team. However, it wasn’t until 1932–33, when Smith began to truly blossom after was moved from his role of inside forward and shifted into a deeper role at right half, the position he would make his own for the club for the next 17 years. He helped Leicester to their first ever FA Cup semi-final in 1934 in which came up against two other of his older brothers, Jack and Bill, who were both playing for Leicester’s opponents Portsmouth, Portsmouth winning 4-1 at St Andrews.
He was made club captain two years later in 1936 and won his only honour with the club the following year, winning the Second Division title in 1936-37.Smith spent his entire career at Leicester, which ended in 1949. He made 376 competitive appearances for the Foxes, scoring 37 goals. However, he lost seven seasons of his career because of World War Two, during which time he made a further 213 appearances and scored 48 goals during regionalised wartime football. Including these wartime appearances, his tally of 586 appearances makes him Leicester’s second top appearance maker of all-time behind Graham Cross.
Despite being called up to the national squad on two other occasions, Smith played only once for England against Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast in October 1935. In the same year, he played in the Jubilee International against Scotland, a 4-2 defeat at Hampden Park in August, and also for the Football League against the Scottish League in Glasgow in a 2-2 draw that October.
Smith mentored former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie during his time at Leicester. Revie, who dedicated an entire chapter in his autobiography entitled “What I Owe to Sep Smith” claimed “I’m proud now to think of how much time Sep spent passing on his soccer [sic] knowledge to me. He played a big part in my shaping my career.” He also referred to Smith as “an extraordinary footballer,” saying “he could place the ball within an inch of a man’s toe – [and] that when he lobbed the ball to his winger the opposing full back felt the ball graze his hair as he tried to strain his neck that extra inch, like a drowning man trying to lift his head out of the water.”
Smith retired in the summer of 1949 aged 37, having helped Leicester stave off relegation to the Third Division on the last day of the season with a 1-1 draw at Cardiff City. He stayed on as a coach at Leicester, however after Johnny Duncan resigned a few weeks later, Smith’s ties with the club were then severed under Duncan’s replacement Norman Bullock.
Of his brothers, Tom and Joe, were both already playing for Leicester City when he joined. Tom was a regular in the first-team before moving to Manchester United and Joe was a reserve team player who later joined Watford. Perhaps the best known of the brothers was Jack, who scored 4 times for England in 3 internationals and mainly played for South Shields and Portsmouth, finally Billy also played for South Shields and Portsmouth and the two played together in the 1934 FA Cup Final.
At the time of his death aged 94 in 2006, he was the oldest surviving former England footballer, and the last surviving pre-World War Two international.