Two Time Scottish Cup Winner!
Two Time Scottish Cup Winner!
The first & so far only player to have two winners medals, playing for the club between 1916 & 1931.
Profile by Craig Benson
A remarkable career which included over 400 games & 100 goals for Killie. A glorious achievement of itself, then you discover he had two lengthy spells out the game with serious injuries.
His playing career, as with many at the time, started in the Ayrshire juniors with Ardeer Thistle. He signed for Killie in 1916, and with many players called up to serve in the First World War, Mattha was thrown straight into the first team aged just 18.
He quickly became at home in the inside right part of the team, scoring his first goal in just his second game, a 3-0 win over Greenock Morton.
It was a match in December at our county neighbours which truly laid the foundations for his legendary status at Killie.
Since election to the top flight 3 seasons previously Killie hadn't faired well against the county's other team.
Indeed we had no wins in 7, with only 1 draw. We hadn't even bothered the opposition goal down south, until Mattha opened the scoring on that December afternoon. Killie went on to win 2-0.
He missed the entirety of the 18/19 season through serious injury. Twelve different players were tried out in his position but no-one could replace Mattha Smith.
He returned the following season, in which we'd achieve our first piece of silverware. With Alloa, Queens Park, Armadale & Morton despatched en-route Killie were in the final alongside Albion Rovers.
A record crowd of 95,811 packed inside Hampden & with many more locked outside, we triumphed by three goals to two.
In the days before fancy stats, only scorers were remembered: Culley, Short & JR Smith.
It is worth noting, however, that Mattha had the 'assists' for the first two goals. A contemporary report from the Scotsman suggested that "Kilmarnock won by 3 goals to 2 and on play they should have won by more"
in 1926/27 Smith was switched to the right wing. A move which almost brought his career to an end.
The first game of the season, at home against Celtic Smith's leg was broken in a collision with Bhoys left back Hugh Hilley.
Fast forward 14 months and Smith had fought back to full fitness, returning & scoring in a 2-2 draw with Airdrie. Like he'd never been away.
By the time 1928/29 came around, Smith was the senior pro & captain of the side. Glasgow Uni, Bo'ness, Albion Rovers & Raith Rovers were seen off during the cup run. Celtic were the semi final opponents at Ibrox, Jimmy Weir's goal saw them off, to lead us to a final against Rangers.
That's right. If we wanted a second cup, we'd have to do it the hard way.
A penalty save from Sam Clemie plus goals from Aitken & Williamson saw off the, prior to kick off, double holders in front of 114,708 at Hampden Park. And Smith collected that rarest of items, a second winners medal in a Killie shirt.
His final goal for the club, fittingly came against our county 'rivals' on 13th September 1930.
Prior to Smith's arrival, our dismal record was no wins in seven against them. When he hung up his boots, it was 11 wins and 4 draws from 17 league matches. Breaking the club's appearance record in a 1-0 win over Rangers a month later, he faded from the first team.
His final appearance was a 2-1 win over Leith Athletic in February 1931.
Mattha was made a life member of the club upon his retirement, and his career came to a close by playing for our county neighbours, Ayr United, followed by a short spell with Galston.
Father of Bill, grandfather to Gordon (born the year after his death) Mattha died of coronary thrombosis in Kilmarnock Infirmary at the appallingly young age of 55.
Having never met, but taking a keen interest in his grandfather's career, Gordon became a footballer of note himself.
Speaking in 1989 Gordon recalled:
"I was very proud of him. Killie have only won the cup twice and he played in both sides. I won two ... but his are more valuable than mine. There's lots of Rangers players with medals, but not many Killie players"
There's even fewer with more than one. Mattha strips are featured in the Hampden museum of Scottish football.
Sept 6th 2014 : When collecting a 2014 Kilmarnock FC Hall of Fame, Mattha's Grand-Son Gordon said: “I grew up being told all about my grandpa and it was fantastic.
"It was one of the things that gave me motivation to be a footballer that somebody in my family had got to that level.
"I’m so sorry my dad couldn’t be here tonight.
"He died in October last year and he spoke so highly of him.” He then showed one of Mattha’s Scottish Cup medals to those in attendance.
Gordon said: “In the Scottish Cup in 1929, my grandpa was captain and having played in the 1920 final when they beat Albion Rovers the crowd was 85,000 at Hampden.
"The final against Rangers in 1929, was after they beat Celtic in the semi-final.
"That Rangers team had a record number of wins that year and Kilmarnock beat them 2-0 in the final.”
Mattha Smith 31/12/1897-16/05/1953
440 games played. 115 goals.
Two winners medals.
Historical information in this post comes from David Ross' wonderful book, Killie Greats.
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