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 You are in: Front Page > Learning English > through Sport > Football - The People
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The people

Alan Smith - The goalscorer

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My name’s Alan Smith I became a professional footballer in 1982 when I joined Leicester City. Played for them for 5 years. I think I scored 76 goals for them in that time. And then I joined Arsenal in 1987. We were lucky enough to win the league in 1989. Arsenal hadn’t won it for 18 years. I won the Golden Boot in that season as the division’s top scorer then we won the league again in ’91 and a few more trophies came and I retired in 1995 after a bad knee injury.

Which of those trophies means most to you?
Alan with Cup Winner's CupThe first championship does I think because we hadn’t won the league in 18 years but the manner of the victory at Anfield when it was the last game of the season against Liverpool and we had to beat them by two goals and you know obviously nobody expected us to win but I scored the first goal shortly into the second half and that was one of, I’d say that was my most important goal of my career really. And Michael Thomas got the winner, the clincher in the dying seconds and it was just a super way to finish, to win the championship and finish the season and it’s something which I don’t think will ever be repeated.

What other goals in your career stand out for you?
Scoring for England at Wembley I think. I scored two goals in, I got 13 caps but I got two – I got one against Turkey which was in the European Championship qualifier and it was the only goal of the match - we won one-nil at Wembley. It was a headed goal from close in it wasn’t that spectacular but, you know, my Dad was up in the stand and to score the winning goal for England is something else entirely. That was a very proud moment – but yeah,the one at Anfield, the Cup Winners Cup goal, that was a big one for me when we beat Parma – that was the only goal of the match as well.

Scoring against ParmaIt was quite a long distance one for me. Normally I didn’t score too many outside the box. That one was just outside and with the left foot, a volley, the inside of the post it went in off and em yeah it was added excitement because it was a major final and it was a good goal.

Can you describe what’s it like to score an important goal?
It’s difficult, I mean you get a huge adrenaline rush with any goal normally. As a striker scoring is your lifeblood and it’s a wonderful feeling every time you hit the back of the net. But I mean in the major finals if you score a goal immediately you understand the significance of it, of course, but I think it’s when you sit back afterwards and you think ‘Oh blimey, you know, that was a big game! Er, you know, I did well there’ I mean it is a brilliant feeling at the time, there’s nothing that can describe it – I think that rush of adrenaline is something that you do miss when you finish.

What would be the worst experiences you’ve had – other than having to retire early, but actually during a game or a season?
Couple of matches. We lost to Wrexham in the FA Cup, Arsenal did, which was a huge shock at the time – probably the one that hurt even more was when we lost to Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley when Gazza got that free kick and Gary Lineker got two. Probably the biggest disappointment was the number of goals I scored in the later years of my career when I became a provider more than a scorer and it was a period that I didn’t really enjoy and it was a shame because it was my last couple of years in the game and I went out with a whimper really and it’s something I regret happening.

Which is more rewarding, playing for a successful club or playing for your country or is it two different things?
Scoring for England against TurkeyIt is two different things. I mean there’s a great feeling of camaraderie with your club team mates because you are very close to them and you aren’t so much with the England lads who you meet up with occasionally, every month or so. So when you’ve achieved something you’ve all worked together for it you’ve all trained together everyday, know each others’ characters inside out and that’s a wonderful feeling when you pull something off. But you know obviously representing your country is another feeling and em I mean we’ve not been too successful down the years with England but nevertheless standing there for the National Anthem and to actually say that, you know, at one given time you were the best player in England in that position it’s a great feeling when you look back.

Unfortunately you had to retire early because of injury but was there anything left you felt you wanted to achieve?
Looking back I would’ve liked to play abroad I think. I think there were various opportunities but I wasn’t out of contract and the clubs turned it down but it would have been a nice thing to be able to say you’ve been abroad and conquered that and learnt the language, adapted to the lifestyle and everything. I think it would have broadened your horizons and it would have benefited you as a person but having said that I can’t complain. I was at Arsenal during that time when I perhaps could have gone abroad and you know the times we had there were fantastic so, erm, but no I would have liked to have played a bit longer.

I would’ve liked to play the World Cup for England actually. I just missed out in selection in 1990. I was in the squad of 26 and he (the manager) whittled it down to 22. That was a bad day. That would’ve been nice to go to a world cup.

What is it that makes a striker a good striker?
CelebratingI think, well, he’s got to be single minded if he wants to score goals. There were times where perhaps there might a better pass on but you see the goals and you want to have a shot. You’ve got to be durable you know you’ve got to be able to take knocks, you know, both mentally and physically because there’s going to be times when you’ll go through a bad patch and you’ve got to stay strong and come through that and not let your head drop. Got to be a good footballer, have good control, all the normal things that you would expect to become a footballer. But, you know, being a striker is quite a specialised job and a lot of it is mental you know – having the confidence and self belief to go out there and knock them in. Sometimes chances can look easy but when you’re not in a run of good form they’re very difficult, and yeah, lots mental.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out – from your experience what would you like to pass on.
I would say to just work hard and be dedicated at your profession because the more work that you do put in the more rewards you’ll get out. And it’s quite a ruthless game, you’re there to represent yourself first and foremost and you’ve got to look after yourself and in doing that you’ll help the team if you give it your best. Just basically to be dedicated – it’s long slog, a season is a long slog, and to try and be consistent and put full effort into every match.

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