The career of Alan Smith seems to be one of the most rollercoaster football stories to date, so strap in for this one because it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Prior to the turn of the millennium, Leeds were the First Division champions before the Premier League came into view and even had the likes of Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Rio Ferdinand on their domestic registrar.
But by around 2002-03, financial mis-management took hold of Elland Road to the point where they were plunged into administration prior to the new season taking place; which promptly led to their relegation from the elite top English division and thus, leaving much of their starlets vulnerable to be pinched by the country’s best. But surely they didn’t need to worry about their own academy product from betraying them, right? After all, he’s Leeds through and through …
Whatever the morality behind the decision, Sir Alex Ferguson sanctioned a £7 million purchase of the ex-Leeds striker in the summer of 2003, with Alan Smith’s fearlessness and desire earmarked as a turning point from the club’s transitional period that they were experiencing at the time.
Joining a new-look United lineup with Louis Saha stationed alongside him, Smith adopted a deeper role to your typical ‘Number 9’ striker – where his mature hold-up play and decent decision-making skill allowed him to pivot in between that advanced midfield and forward positions. Though unfortunately for him he was brought in only a year shy of Wayne Rooney’s arrival at the club; which pushed Alan further down the pecking order than what would’ve been expected upon signing.
Resigned to feed off the scraps of whatever opportunity presented itself to him, it’s fair to say that Alan Smith cut a relatively frustrated figure whenever called upon by Sir Alex. And with much of his involvement largely restricted to cup competition and league cover for the established lads ahead of him, Smith had an opportunity to at least attract a wandering eye from management when squaring up against Liverpool in the FA Cup, on 18th February 2006. But unfortunately for him, the game would be remembered for all the wrong reasons …
Gearing up as part of the United wall to defend a long-ish range direct free-kick for Liverpool (taken by fierce shot-striker John Arne Riise), many expected the Norwegian’s smack to at least clear the wall in its journey for the United goal. However, it instead careered straight into the right leg of Alan Smith – breaking the Englishman’s leg and sending a shockwave down to his foot to dislocate his ankle for good measure.
After this, Alan Smith was never the same calibre of striker than before the injury came about. Roughly a year spent on the sidelines (with a comprehensive rehab scheme to boot) had stripped the pressing Brit of a long of his fearlessness and pace when called upon for United. Thereafter a rough £1 million loss was made on the striker who moved to Newcastle United, which then lit alight the touch paper for a journeyman career which saw him adopt a pure midfield role at lower league clubs; including the likes of Notts County and MK Dons.
Here’s why I call this the ultimate level of ‘karma’ for Alan Smith. While I, in no way, intend to belittle his decision to move to Manchester United from Leeds, his succeeding career at Old Trafford and beyond seems to balance out the intense level of betrayal he displayed when making the switch.
And when you consider that an ex-Leeds player, gets injured whilst playing for Manchester United… by a Liverpool man’s football. Then you gotta wonder … does karma exist?! Tune in for more Ultra United Stories like these if they tickle your fancy!