10 Things We Learnt in Lockdown With Alan Smith by Dan Smith
Scorer of two the most iconic goals in our entire history, Alan Smith was a worthy choice for Arsenal’s 2nd Lockdown Series.
When you consider he won everything he could domestically, and was a Golden Boot Winner in the Two years he won the title, you could argue that Smudger is underrated.
What I have always respected and it’s apparent throughout this podcast is how humble he is. We have had players who haven’t come close to matching what he did yet act like they are better than they are. Smith has a body of work where he could pat himself on the back, but he doesn’t.
Here are 10 Things We Learnt in Lockdown With Alan Smith
10- Don’t Read The Sun
Alan Smith quickly learnt the size of the club he had joined when he failed to score in his first three games.
The striker picked up a paper to read that we wanted to buy Kerry Dixon from Chelsea after our new signing’s ‘failures? (to be fair the paper was the Sun!) It gave him an idea of the scrutiny he would now face compared to when he was at Leicester.
9- Golden Boot
In the famous 89 season Smudger won the Golden Boot (he would win it twice in three years). To this day he remains surprised as he never saw himself as a natural goal scorer.
He recalls telling the press he wasn’t a goal poacher like a Tony Cottee, with his game more based on having his back to goal, holding the ball up or flicking the ball on.
8- Thought Title Race Was Over
After dropped points at home to Wimbledon in 1989 Arsenal knew their title fate was no longer in their own hands. When learning Liverpool ‘s result against West Brom, the Gunners knew the reality of what they had to do at Anfield.
While no one had given up, on reflection Smith says the mood at Highbury for the final home game of the campaign was one of acceptance that they had come up short. He recalls the applause from gooners and interaction from board members was almost like commiserations.
7- Anfield 89
Most fans would have heard numerous stories regarding ‘Anfield 89‘. Smith explains George Graham ‘s approach towards the game. Instead of focusing on the two goals (minimal) we needed to be champions, our manager was more focused on the importance of keeping a clean sheet!
The rest as they say …. is history
Arsenal were champions again in 91 with Smith becoming the first Arsenal player to win the Golden Boot twice. The cruel irony is he remembers being really excited to link up with Ian Wright. Little did he know it was the start of his most ‘miserable’ period of his career.
Wright’s instinctive obsession for goals made it hard to form the partnership many envisaged.
5- Confidence ‘Fallen Off A Cliff ‘
The World has done a better job over the years of encouraging people to talk about how they are feeling mentally. Smith suggests that if the resources around today were available in the early nineties it would have helped his confidence which ‘had fallen off the cliff.’
He was struggling with the idea of going from being the main man to now being on the bench and seeing his goal ratio dwindle. He makes it clear that George Graham was not the type you could share your feelings with.
4- Only Booked One Time
An incredible statistic is Alan Smith only got one yellow card in his entire Arsenal career. That was in the FA Cup, so if you want an example how the modern game has changed, could you imagine a target man physically jumping with defenders to win headers, not ever getting booked in the League in the span of 7 years.
3- Cup Winners Cup
At a time where his confidence wasn’t what it once was, the obvious highlight of this period was his solo goal in the Cup Winners Cup.
Ian Wright was suspended for the final which allowed Smith (at least for that week) feel like the focal point of the team again. It was a vintage 1-0 to the Arsenal with the defence doing amazing to hold out Parma and protect our lead
Alan Smith’s whole career ended in an anti-climax. When he faced Millwall in the FA Cup, little did he know he would never play again. He originally thought a knee injury would keep him out for 4 weeks after minor surgery.
When they tried to operate the medical team discovered bone damage forcing retirement. Physio Gary Lewin said it was the quickest time frame he had seen from someone playing to then retiring.
It’s potent that Alan Smith has almost bookended his career by being humble. Like he never envisaged winning the Golden Boot he never thought he had what it took to be a co-commentator for the likes of Sky.
He was comfortable working in the media in terms of his writing but originally wasn’t confident in a speaking role. But it’s allowed him for over two decades to be in attendance for World Cup and Champions League Finals.
In total Alan Smith scored 115 goals in 347 games for the Arsenal, two seasons in which he won the Golden Boot.
He won two Championships at Highbury, the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners Cup.
His goals at Anfield in 1989 and in the last European Final we won are iconic and will live forever.