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Linnets' Alliance Premier League title winner and first Wembley skipper Ossie Smith dies at 67

Updated: Jun 29

Runcorn Linnets are greatly distressed and deeply saddened to report the death of Linnets Legend, Ossie Smith.

Former Runcorn AFC captain Ossie died on Sunday, aged 67, after a long illness.

Very few players have had the influence or success that Ossie enjoyed in seven successful years at the club.

In 1986, he skippered our predecessors in the first of Linnets' three Wembley finals in the FA Trophy.

An energetic and athletic box- to-box player with an eye for goal, Ossie led by example from central midfield.

He was as hugely popular off the field as he was on it and also highly respected by rival clubs up and down the country, being capped by England at semi-professional level.

On joining Linnets, Ossie was the fulcrum of the teams, which won successive Northern Premier League and Alliance Premier League titles between 1980 and 1982 - pivotal to the Runcorn renaissance under John Williams, which made them the top non-league club in the land.

Ossie's death follows that of his former Canal Street manager in March.

It is testimony to Ossie that John always wanted him in his side and their partnership continued following the manager's departure for Altrincham shortly after the Wembley final.

Ossie, the trusted skipper, joined his old boss at Moss Lane the following year.

It was a Robins return for Ossie, who had played in his youth at "Alty", his local club, as well as Manchester United. His other clubs included Southport.

Ossie was among the former Runcorn players, who were invited to attend the opening of our Linnets Stadium in 2010, gracing a Runcorn pitch for one last time.

He appeared 233 times (making 229 starts) for Runcorn in the APL/Conference alone, scoring 49 goals in non-league's top flight.

We can think of no better tribute to Ossie than the following article, written in the early 2000s, by Derek Greenwood for his Linnets Legends series.

Derek went on to be Runcorn Linnets chairman and is now one of our vice-presidents.

Derek says of Ossie Smith:

"In another part of Linnets Legends I talked about Eddie Moss as probably one of the best footballers ever to wear the Runcorn shirt.

"Very close behind Moss would undoubtedly be Ossie Smith. I last met up with Ossie about 5 years ago at a social occasion in Frodsham and I had forgotten what a quiet unassuming person he was.

"And yet on the field he was undoubtedly a great player and leader. Who can ever forget that boundless energy and those surging runs. That right leg which appeared to be telescopic at times when he went into the tackle.

"Yes, Ossie was a firm favourite with the Runcorn fans.

"Together with Ben Seddon, Ossie was one of John Williams’s first signings. And what a signing he was!

"Ossie started his playing career as a junior with Manchester Utd. He played for Lancashire Boys as well as the English and British Universities side.

"He represented Britain in the World Student Games in Mexico in 1979. He was selected for the England Non-League squad in 1984.

"Ossie was a quantity surveyor by profession.

"The lasting memory of Ossie has to be his goal in the semi-final of the FA Trophy at Kettering in 1986.

"The first leg had been drawn 0–0 at Canal Street and I remember walking off the ground with some Kettering fans who were ecstatic and convinced they were already at Wembley! We knew better.

"John Williams’s teams did not concede goals easily. We were met at Kettering with a hostile reception from their many fans in the stand but the team, and Smith in particular, were outstanding and his goal together with one by Dave Mather took us to Wembley.

"Ossie captained the team to successes in the Bob Lord Trophy (1982/83 and 1984/85) and the Cheshire Senior Cup (1984/85).

"Ossie Smith was an outstanding captain and a fine player. It is no coincidence that the club enjoyed so much success with John Williams in charge and Ossie as his captain. "

The club sends its condolences to Ossie's family and friends on their extremely sad loss.

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