Following in the footsteps of a larger than life character such as Peter Fox would have daunted many, but that was not something to worry the phlegmatic Tommy Smales. He had enjoyed considerable success as a player with his hometown club, loose forward in the 1967 Cup final. There he is on the front cover of this programme crashing over for the match winning try at Wembley, the dream of every single lad who’s ever picked up a rugby ball. What a proud moment that must have been. After hanging up his boots, Tommy embarked on a coaching career that began naturally enough when a vacancy came up at Featherstone.
Unfortunately, no sooner had the 1974/5 campaign begun then Tommy began to have problems with the workload of being a part-time coach, and the amount of free time he was allowed from his full-time employment. On the field, the team started with three straight wins, but then lost four on the trot, including early exits from both the Yorkshire Cup at the hands of Wakefield, and the John Player Trophy to Widnes. It quickly became apparent that this situation was not going to resolve itself and Tommy quit after just a small handful of games in charge. Faithful Rovers servant Keith Goulding stepped into the gap, leaving his job with York to take over at Featherstone.
Strangely enough, in 1977 history repeated itself when Peter Fox, at that time in charge of lowly Bramley, quit to take over at Bradford Northern. Bramley then moved for Tommy Smales to replace him, just as Rovers had done three years earlier. After Bramley, he then coached struggling Doncaster for a season, a true test of any coach’s stamina and resolution. In 1979 he took over at Batley, coaching them for two seasons, and had a spell at Dewsbury in 1983/84, his last coaching appointment. Within a few years Tommy’s son Ian had made his debut for Rovers and the family connection with the club continued.
I have referred to Tommy as the “loose forward” in this article, as another Tommy Smales, the former Rovers scrum-half and later Great Britain captain also confusingly enough had a spell as head coach of Featherstone Rovers in the 1970s.
Tommy Smales’ coaching record:
74/5: Won 3 Lost 4 = 42.86%