Alan Smith
Personal information
Full name Alan Smith
Date of birth 28 October 1980 (1980-10-28) (age 39)
Place of birth    Rothwell, England England
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Youth clubs
1996-1998 England Leeds United
Senior clubs
Years Club App (Gls)
England Leeds United
England Manchester United
England Newcastle United
England → Milton Keynes Dons (loan)
England Milton Keynes Dons
England Notts County
172 0(38)
061 00(7)
084 00(0)
016 00(1)
051 00(1)
086 00(0)   
National team
England England U21
England England B
England England
010 00(3)
019 00(1)
Teams managed
2017 England Notts County (caretaker)

Alan Smith (born 28 October 1980) is an English footballer who last played for Notts County. He has also represented the England national team, winning 19 caps.

Smith first came to prominence as both a striker and a right winger during his early days at Leeds United; however, after moving to Manchester United he broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in a match against Liverpool, whereupon manager Sir Alex Ferguson converted him to a holding midfielder, a role in which he continued after his transfer to Newcastle United. Smith has earned a reputation as a hard-tackling player and is noted for his high work rate.

He had a short spell as caretaker manager of Notts County in 2017, but later reverted to the role of player-coach after the appointment of Kevin Nolan as manager.

Early career

Smith was born and raised in Rothwell, on the outskirts of Leeds in West Yorkshire. When he was growing up, football was a secondary interest to BMX and Motocross. His older brother persuaded him to try out for local team Rothwell Juniors, and he scored four goals in his opening match.

At age 11, Smith was enrolled as a youth trainee at Thorp Arch, spending two years there. When he was 14 he gained a place at the FA School of Excellence at Lilleshall, but intense homesickness forced him to withdraw.

Club career

Leeds United

Smith joined Leeds United at the beginning of the 1998-1999 season, but did not make his first appearance until November 1998. He was warned that he "only had one or two chances" to make an impact. On 14th November 1998, he made his debut - as a 78th minute substitute against Liverpool - and scored with his first touch as a professional footballer.

Smith immediately became the undisputed first-choice stiker, and enjoyed immense success and popularity as the club rose domestically and on the European front.

He became a beloved "hometown hero", winning "Supporters' Player of the Year" for two consecutive years in 2003 and 2004. Although his goal tally and disciplinary record were far from impressive, Leeds fans appreciated his willingness to play in any position on the pitch and his tireless efforts to try and save the club from relegation.

The club's relegation battle was ultimately unsuccessful. In what would be his last match for the club in May 2004, Smith left the field in tears after publicly kissing the badge on his shirt. He transferred to bitter trans-Pennine rivals Manchester United in a move surrounded by controversy. He was branded a traitor, despite the fact that the club had made public the fact that they could not afford to pay his wages. In light of the financial difficulties at Leeds, Smith chose to waive his personal share of the transfer fee. It has since been revealed that Leeds in fact engineered the move, and would only have ever allowed him to join Manchester United as they were the only club to have offered the money up-front. Smith faced the choice between joining Leeds' bitter rivals or seeing his boyhood club enter administration.

Manchester United

AlanSmith ManUtd Lille

A dejected Alan Smith leaves the field topless after Manchester United's defeat to Lille in October 2005

Smith joined Manchester United at the beginning of the 2004-05 season. He scored 10 goals in his first season for the club, but with Wayne Rooney in good form and Ruud van Nistelrooy back in the team after an injury, Smith found himself regularly on the bench.

Smith took part in his first Manchester United tour of the Far East in the summer of 2005. Although he struggled in the heat, Smith's performances impressed manager Sir Alex Ferguson to the extent that he began to be touted as a potential successor to Roy Keane in midfield. Smith's chance to prove his credentials came early in the 2005-06 season, when Keane was injured, but he proved to be ineffective. Criticism of Smith and other United players peaked after a 4-1 away league defeat to Middlesbrough and a 1-0 defeat against Lille in the Champions League. Smith's response to the criticism was typically determined.

On 18 February 2006, during an FA Cup match against Liverpool, Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle while trying to block a free kick by John Arne Riise. Ferguson described the injury as "one of the worst" he had seen, and it was estimated that Smith would be out of the game for at least nine months. Reports at the time claimed that Liverpool fans attacked the ambulance that carried Smith as it left Anfield, but he has since refuted these claims. A week later, Manchester United beat Wigan Athletic in the final of the League Cup and, after the match, United players played tribute to Smith by collecting the trophy in T-shirts bearing the words "For you Smudge" (referring to Smith's nickname).

Ahead of the 2006-07 season, van Niselrooy was sold to Real Madrid, and Ferguson stated that he intended to replace him by converting Smith back to a centre forward. He returned to first-team action in September 2006, but was still not match fit and was consigned to occasional substitute appearances for the next four months. As he continued his rehabilitation, Cardiff City and former club Leeds expressed interest in a loan deal, but Smith stated that he was determined to fight for his place in the Manchester United starting line-up.
AlanSmith ManUtd

Alan Smith celebrating a goal for Manchester United

He returned to action again in March 2007, and made appearances (though not for the full 90 minutes) in the subsequent months. Smith featured in Manchester United's Champions League quarter final in April 2007, scoring the second goal of the 7-1 victory.

Despite falling short of the 10 appearances needed to quality for a Premier League winner's medal, the league granted special dispensation for Smith to receive a medal on the last day of the season. He made his last competitive appearance for Manchester United a week later.

Despite taking part in Manchester United's pre-season tour of the Far East, Smith left the club in August 2007, joining Newcastle United for a fee of £6 million.

Newcastle United

Alan+Smith+West+Bromwich+Albion+v+Newcastle+V9c5-nWKutdl (1)

Alan Smith captaining Newcastle during their 2009-10 season in the Championship

Smith scored in his debut for Newcastle, in a friendly against Sampdoria, yet struggled to establish himself as a striker and failed to score a single league goal during his first season.

His next season was hampered by a stress fracture to the ankle he sustained during the pre-season. After a second season without a goal, Smith was relegated for a second time as Newcastle dropped to the Championship.

In the summer of 2009, Smith played against his former club Leeds United in a pre-season friendly at St James Park. His every touch was booed by the Leeds fans, and, despite him clearly enjoying the attention, he was heavily jeered when he was substituted off the pitch.

Despite interest from other clubs, Smith opted to remain with Newcastle as they faced the 2009-10 season in the Championship. He was promoted to vice captain, but ended up captaining the side in almost every game due to manager Chris Hughton preferring him over official captain Nicky Butt. Smith was a first team mainstay during Newcastle's Championship season, and has been acknowledged as helping to hold the team together both on and off the field. For many, his impassioned, battling performances during matches epitomised the team's spirit of achievement against the odds. A particular incident in September 2009, in a match against Leicester, was described by football journalist Ian Ladyman as "summing up" what Newcastle's season had been about. On a freezing and rainy night, underdogs Newcastle were defending a fragile 1-0 lead as the match entered injury time. Smith lost the ball in his own half, then won it back with a lunging tackle, to cheers from fans. He lost the ball again, so threw himself into another desperate tackle. As he slid sideways across the sodden turf his shorts began to slip down, and the cheers intensified when it became apparent that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. Undeterred and seemingly unembarrassed, Smith regained the ball. As Ladyman remarked, "the quality didn't matter, the commitment and the effort was enough."

During the Championship season, Smith began to cement his position as a defensive midfielder, and announced that he had no intention of trying to return to his formerly beloved position of striker. Providing an anchor in the midfield and a shield for the defence suited his commanding personality. In addition, he remarked that he was now suited to a more physically restricted role, after admitting that although fit, playing up front frequently left him "too tired and too hot" to have a meaningful impact in the latter stages of games.

Newcastle emerged as league champions, but the club's return to the Premiership was marked by an influx of new players who replaced Smith in the starting line up. In January 2011, Smith's injury-prone nature resurfaced when, during a match against Sunderland, he went down and was carried off the pitch howling in pain and frustration. The injury turned out to be an ankle fracture, and Smith was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

In June 2011, Smith was notified by the Newcastle management that his services were no longer required, and that he was free to leave. He decided to stay, however, and try and work his way back into the starting lineup. He accompanied the club on their summer tour to the United States, amid speculation that he was being targeted by Major League Soccer club Orlando City. During the tour he played bit-part roles in several matches, but his unusually lacklustre performances and demeanour seemed to confirm to all at Newcastle that his heart was no longer at the club. During matches he seemed distracted, visibly struggling to cope with the heat and spending much of the time trying desperately to hold his hair out of his face. Rumours of his apparently imminent departure further increased when, during the team’s stay in Orlando, Smith bypassed Newcastle media to speak to local journalists while clad - apparently defiantly - in nothing but trainers and a tiny pair of shorts.

Shortly after the team's return to the UK, though, he announced that he would not be moving to America, citing the lack of promotion and relegation as a major turn off for someone who has "never played for fun." He made only two more appearances for Newcastle that season.

Milton Keynes Dons

In January 2012, Smith joined Milton Keynes Dons on loan until the end of the season. He saw his time at MK Dons as one of reflection, and enjoyed playing regular first-team football. He scored his first goal in give years in April 2012, against Sheffield United. Smith worked with manager Karl Robinson and other staff to mentor young players. He was open about the change of pace in his career, admitting that his 2006 leg injury was a low point that he had never truly recovered. He revealed that his many injuries have left him in almost constant discomfort, and that every day he wakes up I n physical pain.

In May 2012, Robinson opened talks with Smith's representatives about a permanent move to the club. The move was completed in mid-July, with Smith signing a two-year contract. At the end of the contract, in May 2014, he was released from the club.

Notts County


Alan Smith playing for Notts County

AlanSmith training1

Alan Smith during a Notts County training session

Following his departure from MK Dons, Smith joined Notts County on a one-year player-coach contract. The move was reported to have come about as a result of a holiday conversation between Smith and then-manager Shaun Derry, and Smith notably commented that he "neither knew nor cared" how much money he was going to be paid. After the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, he was released by the club.

Post-playing career

Although his departure from Notts County was presented as a temporary break, in October 2018 Smith announced his retirement from playing. He revealed that complications from previous injuries have left him in almost constant discomfort, and that club training regimes were doing more harm than good.

Since retirement, Smith has taken on a number of coaching roles, primarily working with youth players under the management of Lawrie Dudfield, and has announced his intention to move to the United States to coach youth soccer. Smith has also taken up the new pastime of surfing. It was revealed that he had decided during his first surfing lesson to not leave the water until he had mastered standing up on the board. With his typical determination he remained in the freezing water, wearing no wetsuit, for over six hours until he had accomplished his goal.

Personality and playing style

Smith is noted for his extremely high work-rate and intense competitiveness on the field. He has achieved particular notoriety for his tough, hard-tackling playing style, which has earned him a poor disciplinary record.

Smith has attributed his combative style to his intensely competitive personality, revealing that he has never "played for fun", and, in addition, to a simply enjoying tackling and being tackled. He has complained about what he sees as the start of football's transition to a non-contact sport, stating that he and players like him are increasingly unable to "stay out of trouble", and that the inevitable yellow (and red) cards are the price to pay for a style that he does not want to change.

Throughout his career Smith has generally been highly regarded by club fans, as much for his attitude as for his technical abilities, with light-hearted attention drawn to his poor disciplinary record and Yorkshire tenacity and pragmatism. Smith has always been nicknamed "Smudge", but during his time at Manchester United he was also known as "Chilli Pepper" and "Red Hot 14" - referring both to his fiery temper on the field and to his high popularity among female fans. He lived up to both aspects of this image with his headstrong, sweat-drenched match performances, and by donning a short-sleeved shirt in all weathers, often training wearing very little and frequently leaving the pitch shirtless.

Smith has consciously and conspicuously avoided publicly revealing details of his personal life. Nevertheless, several bouts of generally negative media attention have surfaced. These have mostly taken the form of 'kiss and tell' stories about his alleged promiscuity, his seduction of strings of women including celebrities, and his reported bedroom prowess. In 2007, Smith was criticised in the national media for his alleged frequent all-night sex sessions – often on the eve of important games, including England's unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying match against Croatia.

External links

Notts County Football Club - Managers

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