Date:4th May 2010 at 10:05am
Written by:

When Alan Smith scored on his Leeds debut against Liverpool it was just the beginning of a roller coaster career for the Yorkshire born striker. His goal in front of the Kop brought Leeds back into the Premier League game and they would go on and win the game 3-1, making the Rothwell born player an instant hometown hero.

A core player in the Leeds side that reached 00-01 Champions League semi finals, Smith would score a career high 18 goals that season including 7 on the continent and it appeared Leeds would push on and again experience the glories of the 60s and early 70s but this was the beginning of the end.

Leeds’ financial troubles sent the club on a downward spiral that saw star players like Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Jonathan Woodgate and Harry Kewell amongst others sold and manager David O’Leary, who in all his time at the helm of the club never finished outside the top 6, sacked.

Smith remained at the club but at the end of the 03-04 season, a massively depleted Leeds side were relegated from the Premier League. In the final game of the season Smith cried and kissed his badge amidst a pitch invasion but declared he was not a division one player so he would move abroad rather than join another English team, making his return to England only when Leeds were promoted.

So you can only imagine the shock Leeds fan must have felt when Smith joined huge rivals Manchester United for £7m. He went from hero to villain and in the following games banners in Elland Road proclaimed him as ‘Judas’ despite the fact he waived the personal transfer fee Leeds were due to pay him in order to help ease their financial woes.

Smith began his career at United scoring a spectacular volley against Arsenal as United lost the Community Shield 3-1, but injury, the return of Ruud Van Nistelrooy from injury and the purchase of a young fellow called Wayne Rooney saw Smith relegated to the bench for the majority of the season.

With very little chance of him securing a place up front and Roy Keane aging, Sir Alex Ferguson began to groom Smith to become the wily Irishman’s replacement and when Keane was released for his explosive rant against his team mates in 2005, Smith finally had his chance.

Smith was one of the players Keane had mentioned in the fiery interview so in the following home game against Chelsea he put in the performance of a life time stamping his authority on the game. He got about the pitch throwing in hard, crunching challenges and at the end United came away with the 1-0 victory handing Chelsea their first defeat of the season. The performance embodied Smith as a player, his work rate was phenomenal and always gave 100%.

embedded by Embedded Video

That season was a turning point in Smith’s career, and on February 18th 2006 in an FA Cup tie with Liverpool, whilst attempting to block a John Arne Riise free kick, Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in an incident that Sir Alex Ferguson called ‘one of the worst I’ve seen’. Never out of people’s thoughts, when United beat Wigan in the Carling Cup final the players wore t shirts with “For you Smudge” (Smith’s nickname) on them.

The nature of Smith’s injury lead many to believe Smith would be out for over a year but he made his return in a Champions League game against Benfica in September and he went about showing he hadn’t lost his taste for a fight with some crunching challenges in his cameo.

Smith lacked match fitness though and was put on an intensive training regime whilst playing games in order to get back to full fitness. The crowning moment of his season came in United’s 7-1 thrashing of Roma and Old Trafford erupted when he capped a great performance by grabbing a goal in the rout, his first in 18 months.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Despite falling short of the required number of games the FA allowed Smith to pick up a Premier League medal as United took the title back from Chelsea but his time at United was up and that summer he joined Newcastle. Relegated with the club in 2009, he remains at Newcastle captaining the side in their attempt to be promoted from the Championship.

He was heavily booed by Leeds fans in a pre season game at the start of the season, as the man that was once a hero is now a villain to his hometown fans.