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Aston Villa and the greatest nickname in sports

These two player may not have been the greatest tandem in sports. But the nickname as a duo should alone put them in the conversation.

Stu Forster

This edition of Holte History focuses on two players. In their time together at Aston Villa, the club won no trophies. They came fairly close as a part of the 1930-31 side which scored 128 goals in 42 games, but finished second to Arsenal. (One of them did win the FA Cup in their first season at the club.) But their play together earned them one of the greatest nicknames in the history of sport.

Tommy Smart was born September 20, 1897 in Blackheath, England. He was born into a large, working-class family and had eight brothers and sisters growing up. He played for his school team and other local sides before getting his big break at Halesownen Town. At HTFC, Smart developed into a "tough, no-nonsense defender" and eventually caught the eye of Aston Villa.

In January 1920, Smart joined Villa just in time to be part of an FA Cup winning squad. He was part of the starting XI that beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 in the 1920 FA Cup final. At Villa, Smart gained a reputation as a fierce tackler, unafraid to throw his 6'2" frame around. But yet, he wasn't considered "dirty" or whatever 1920s phrase you want to use. (Another wonderfully 1920s thing about Smart was that he wore a bowler hat to every match and "it was the last thing he took off before dressing into his kit.")

Smart played for Villa until 1934 when he joined Brierley Hill Alliance. In his Villa career, Smart made 452 appearances, which ranks him sixth in club history. He also got five caps for England from 1921 to 1929. Smart passed away on June 10, 1968 at the age of 71.

The other half of the duo was Tommy Mort.

Thomas Mort was born on December 17, 1897 in Kearsley, England. Not much could be found about Mort's early life. It is known that he played for (this is my favorite part: old-timey club names) Kearsley St. Stephens, Newton Lads Club, Lancashire Fusiliers and Altrincham before joining Rochdale.

It was at Rochdale where Mort made his name and eventually he earned to move to Villa in 1922 for £1000. Unlike his defensive partner, Smart, Mort was of average size. However, he too was known for his tackling ability. Mort played for Villa from 1922 to 1935, making 337 appearances. He earned three England caps from 1922 to 1935.

Mort retired from football in 1935 and went into business in Wigan. He died in 1967 at the age of 70.

Now, onto the nickname part. Together the two came to be known as "Death and Glory". I could not find any information about why. It's unclear if one of them was "Death" and the other "Glory". What is known is that nickname is phenomenal.

The two never won anything together at the club, coming close in 1931 as was mentioned. The two were also both in the starting XI for the 1924 FA Cup final in which Villa lost 2-0 to Newcastle. The fact that Villa could never win anything with "Death and Glory" in the side is a little disappointing.

With seemingly most footballing nicknames now being "JT", "Stevie G" and "Lamps", it would be nice if there could be more creative ones. Like, I don't know..."Death and Glory"?

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