Squad Number: 17
International: England full & U-21
Alan Smith, the Rothwell lad had dream debut when he just three weeks on from his 18th birthday, he scored with his first touch in senior football, in front of the Anfield Kop to level the scores in a game United went on to win 3 -1 on Saturday the 14th November 1998. Alan Smith then went on to establish himself as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's striking partner and scored 9 goals in just 16 starts. However, after injuring his ankle in a pre-season friendly his form dipped in the 1999-00 season. But after an operation Alan started the 2000/2001 season on fire and scored the vital winner against 1860 Munich in the Champions League qualifier.
Smithy formed an instant partnership with Jimmy Floyd Moneybank's replacement, ex-Celt, Mark Viduka and was called up to the full England squad and even got a Carling Player of the Month Award. He finished the 2000-01 season on a high with a career best 18 goal tally and by winning two full England caps.
Smithy's career has been blighted by disciplinary problems including dismissal in the Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg against Valencia, and when playing for England. However, several dismissals have been clearly wrong and brought about by his reputation: witness the words of referee Neale Barry addressing a seminar of 24 top referees, who dismissed Smith for an elbow on Turkish defender Alpay in the previous Villa vs Leeds game. Neale described the game as one of ''the most evil'' (clearly a man given to hyperbole is our Neale - OK, Neale now think of an adjective to describe Hitler, Idi Amin or Saddam?) he had refereed during his five years of officiating in the Premiership, while he said of Alan Smith:
''He was hissing and snarling at me and I knew one way or another he was in for a short afternoon
Now is there any doubt as to why Alan Smith is the player most often booked and red carded in the Premiership?
And anyone who saw the incident knew Alpay was faking it. Alpay is a thug; he kicked a supporter at the Riverside Stadium during the England vs. Turkey international. But we let him earn a living in this country, bloody amazing what we'll tolerate in the UK.
Anyway, idiots like Neale still referee, Alpay still desecrates every ground he visits and Smithy's suspensions cost him the chance to go to the 2002 World Cup with England. However, he had the last laugh, as he played a leading role for David Platt's Under-21 side in the European Championships in Switzerland, winning rave reviews whilst a toothless England lacking in passion floundered against Brazil (including desperately bad Leeds loan signing Roque Junior!)
Last season, 2002-03, Leeds changed manager twice, lost six international players and flirted with relegation up to the penultimate weekend of the season. Smithy played out of position under Venables, on the right of midfield. Alan Smith said,
"I discussed relegation with my mum, dad and girlfriend last season and said that no matter what happened, I wanted to stay.
"I think it's easy to for people to walk away when you've been relegated, but it takes a better type of person to stay and say we're all going to stick together and make sure the club gets back where it belongs."
Sentiments that it would have been nice to hear from at least ONE of the the following acquisitive, grasping, greedy, ego-centric, glory-hunting, pusillanimous, self-publicists: Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Jonathan Woodgate, Robbie Fowler, Lee Bowyer, Olivier Dacourt and Harry Kewell
Update May 2003: Leeds are relegated at Bolton, and Smith declares, "I'm not a Division One player". Despite which he is feted at the end of the next game vs Charlton, the last at Elland Road in the Premiership, and is swallowed up by a spontaneous pitch invasion. He states after the game he is looking for a move to a foreign club as it will make it easier for him to return to the club when we get back in the Premiership!
Turns out to be talking a load of bollocks, when the drop came he couldn't leave Leeds fast enough. He talked sentimental rubbish but when the crunch came he skipped off to, of all clubs, Manchester United for £6 million upfront and an unknown player called Danny Pugh. He said he needed to move for his England career, the move came two days after he wasn't picked in the England Euro 2004 squad! It's hard to see how warming the bench at Old Trafford will advance his career, but we never said footballers were the sharpest knives in the drawer did we?
Update 2005 The England striker is now playing in midfield! Still difficult to see how that helps his chances of getting to then World Cup with England.
Update 18th Feb 2006: Alan Smith suffers horrific, freak leg break in 5th round FA Cup tie at Anfield
Sir Alex Ferguson: "Worst injury I've ever seen. Ironically, Smith's World Cup chances are zero and now his very career is being called into question.