Leicester born goalkeeper Walter Smith began his football career with Crafton Swifts in 1899 and joined Leicester Imperial in 1903, from where he was signed by Second Division Leicester Fosse as understudy to Archie Ling, making his Football League debut against Bristol City in February 1904. Once in the team, he soon established himself as the principal glovesman, being ever present in 1905-06 as The Fossils finished 7th. Such consistency attracted First Division Manchester City to his services, and they signed him for £600 in June 1906 after 87 appearances.
He was an ever present as City finished third in the League Championship in 1907-08, but after they were relegated in the 1908-09 season he played only three times as City returned to the top flight at the first time of asking as Second Division Champions in 1910. While he soon re-established himself in 1910-11 as the principal goalkeeper, he then had to share goalkeeping duties with Augustus Beeby and Jim Goodchild over the seasons leading up to suspension of peacetime football due to the advent of the First World War.
He continued to play for Manchester City during the conflict, and also guested for Liverpool, Fulham and Leicester Fosse. At the end of hostilities, Goodchild became City’s number one, and limited Smith to nine appearances in 1919-20. He joined Second Division Port Vale in October 1920 for a ‘modest’ fee having made 256 appearances for The Citizens. However, the morning of his Valiants debut game at South Shields on 23 October he was arrested on assault charges against a chambermaid at the hotel where the team had spent the night. After being released on bail he played the game with a detective standing in the crowd, possibly distracting the team as they went on to lose 6-1. He was found not guilty at his trial in November 1920 and went on to have a successful career with the club.
He featured 29 times in the 1920-21 season, ahead of back-up goalkeepers Alfred Bourne and Jonathan Hammond. He played 13 games in the 1921-22 campaign, before he seriously injured his leg in a 4-1 defeat by Coventry City at Highfield Road on 31st December. Teddy Peers was signed to take his place, and Smith failed to regain his first team place upon his recovery. He was released at the end of the season after 42 appearances for Vale, but despite being 38 did not retire. Instead he moved on to Plymouth Argyle in the summer of 1922, where he didn’t make a first team appearance, and later the same season joined Third Division (North) Grimsby Town, where he made 10 appearances between January and March 1923 before his retirement.