Bet now with totesport - Free £25 bet!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In praise of Alan Smith

No doubt this summer will be like all the others. The predictable merry-go-round of transfer speculation and headlines will be upon us again. United will be linked with £20 million bids for strikers from all over Europe. The names will be exotic; Berbatov, Torres, Villa. All will be the answer to Alex Ferguson’s ‘striking problems’. We know how it works. We see it every year. The stories are the same, only the names will change.
This year whilst the gossip and rumour of pre-season will fills your back pages and runs across the bottom of your Sky Sports news screen, spare a thought for Alan Smith.
If ever a player could be summed up by name alone its Smith. Simple, to the point, English. Smith doesn’t do fancy, he does honesty. He does hard work, determination and strength too. We shouldn’t forget he can play too. His finish against Roma proved that.
Few could argue as Smith finished off a beautiful one touch passing move from United to score the second in the destruction of Roma that anyone deserved it more. Watching the emotion pour out of him during his celebration was like watching the demons of Smith’s broken leg at Anfield finally being exercised. United saw Smith the striker against Roma. Tirelessly closing down defenders, holding the ball up, giving it simple, allowing Rooney, Giggs and Ronaldo to do what they best. Destroy teams.
Sacrifice for the greater good of the team is what Smith is all about. When Alex Ferguson asked him to switch to the holding midfield role, Smith did so without complaint. His determination to make the move a success saw him turn down the opportunity to play for England, choosing instead to play for the reserves and work on his new position. The switch didn’t really solve the midfield problems in the way Ferguson has hoped, but it wasn’t for Smith’s lack of effort.
Even in breaking his leg we saw an example of Smith the footballer. Racing out of the wall to throw himself in front of a rocket of a shot from John Arne Riise. Ferguson described the injury as the ‘worst he’d ever seen’. It could’ve ended Smith’s career. Quietly, he went his road to full fitness. A year after the injury the offer of going out on loan to complete the final stages of his comeback was turned down by Smith, not wanting to under perform for the club he went to due to his lack of sharpness. Instead he stayed at United and worked on a specially designed fitness programme. His desire to play for the club again shown.
Smith’s performance against Roma was a great example of his quality. It was also full of promise. Promise of seeing a player who once might never play again, play to the level he is capable of. Promise of a player who has sacrificed his own gain for that of United, finally be given a run in the side in the position he was bought for. His goal against Roma showed the potential we saw in his first few months at Old Trafford, when he was doing what he does best, leading the line and making life difficult for opposition defences, and scoring the odd volley from the edge of the area.
So this summer when you sit down to eat your cornflakes and cast your eye over the morning’s sports pages at Alex Ferguson’s ‘latest’ transfer target, think of Alan Smith at home, waiting patiently for his chance to prove that if there is ‘striking problem’ it can be solved by a good old fashioned English centre forward, that brings to the table not only a passion and desire but also a massive amount of ability.

by Steven K

Short list Revealed for Pearce replacement