David Smallman was one of football’s great might-have-beens. Signed from Wrexham for £75,000 in March 1975, the young striker was considered one of the most outstanding young prospects outside the top flight. Comparisons were invariably made with Roy Vernon, and Smallman shared many of the physical and footballing characteristics of his countryman. Dark and rakishly slim, he possessed whippet like pace and a poacher’s instinct in front of goal; he even liked a cigarette, earning the sobriquet – ‘Smokey’.
Billy Bingham considered him the ideal foil for Bob Latchford and the early signs were excellent: the new partnership yielded eight goals from the opening eight games of the 1975/76 season. But then an appalling litany of injuries struck with the persistence of a jinx: a dislocated shoulder, torn hamstring, phlebitis of the calf, knee ligament damage, a broken leg in a reserve match and finally a broken leg sustained in a training accident at Bellefield. Evertonians caught but a glimpse of him in 1976/77 and then not at all in the subsequent three seasons. He returned to Wrexham in July 1980, but never played another senior match.
How good might Smallman have become? He started just 23 games, but in that time his natural talents made a distinct impression on those who saw him. No less astute an observer as David Prentice, then a young fan and later the Liverpool Echo’s Chief Sports Writer, once considered him among the ten best players he had ever seen in an Everton shirt: high praise indeed for one of football’s ultimate maybes.