Two-footed and resourceful, Jim Smallwood's consistency shone like a beacon through the gloom of the club's gradual decline in the late 'fifties. A face worker at his local colliery, Jim was one of many Harry Dormand discoveries and signed from Spennymoor United for £1,000 as a semi-pro in October '49 before stepping up to the full professional ranks two months later. He intended to give it a year at Chesterfield, to see how he got on: his association with the club came to last forty times as long! He made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Eve, 1949, and won instant respect by finishing the game with five stitches in a head wound, coming back on to play after The Spireites had been reduced to nine men through injury.
Jim was equally good in either wing-half position and played
occasionally at centre-forward, whenever the team found goals hard to come by.
Some of his forays up front were quite memorable, none more so that in a League
Cup tie at Doncaster: with Chesterfield 1-3 down, Jim scored twice with his
head in the last eight minutes to earn a replay. As his first-team career began
to close, his experience was used to good effect among the reserves, and many
junior players looked up to him; the young John Osborne rated him as "The
type that the ordinary bloke in the crowd could associate with, never giving
less than 100% every week and proud to be playing for Chesterfield."
Jim's playing career came to an end in the summer of 1961. He joined the groundstaff and served as the matchday trainer to the reserves, before stepping up to become first-team trainer the following summer. In November 1967 he became the club's groundsman, continuing in that job until 1986, and combining it with the position of Saltergate Club steward during the mid-1980s, during which time he became instrumental in the reformation of the Supporters' Club. A back injury eventually forced his retirement, but he continued to live locally and took a keen interest in Chesterfield's fortunes until his death at the age of 84, in January 2010.
For Chesterfield: 345 League appearances, 14 goals.