Alan ‘Smudger’ Smith was originally signed from Leicester City in 1987 for £750,000, but was immediately loaned back to the Foxes for the rest of the season.
When the striker did finally arrive at Arsenal it took him a little while to settle at the club. But once he did he became a fantastic player.
Smith was top goal scorer for the Gunners in four consecutive seasons. He made 347 appearances and scored 115 times. Yet Smith was not just a goal scorer. He would constantly be able to find his team mates run by either a flick on or a well-timed pass.
He was your typical English centre forward. At 6’3 had the ability to win most headers and his hold up play was excellent. He could hold onto the ball with his back to goal before laying it off to a team mate. For a tall man he had a subtle touch, able to set up chances for the team to score.
In the air he was excellent, and scored many a headed goal. The match against Liverpool at Anfield in 1989 is a perfect example of his ability. It was Alan Smith’s header which set Arsenal on their way, in the match they needed to win by two clear goals to win the league.
A free kick sent over by Nigel Winterburn was glanced into the back of the net by Smith, putting the Gunners 1-0 up. As we know, Michael Thomas popped up with the historic goal in the final seconds of the match, but it was Alan Smith who had flicked the ball on, straight into the path for Thomas to slot home.
Smith finished that season top goal scorer in the league with 23 goals.
In his time at the club, Smith won two League Championships, the FA Cup and League Cup and one UEFA Cup winners Cup.
It was the Cup Winners Cup final in 1994 where Alan Smith scored the only goal of the game against Parma in Copenhagen to win the match for Arsenal. He brought the ball down on his chest and on the half volley smashed a beautiful left foot shot into the back of the net.
Alan Smith was so much more than a target man or ‘old style’ English centre forward. He scored some great goals in his time for the club, volleys, chips, shots outside the area as well as his famous headers.
Not only was Smith an excellent striker but he was also a true gentleman on the pitch, only ever being booked once in his career. This is an incredible feat considering his aerial combativeness. He was a dream to play alongside too, due to his unselfish running, hard work and ability to slot a ball through to set up his striking partner.
His goal and assist at Anfield as well as his winning goal against Parma will stay long in the Arsenal faithful’s memories. Alan Smith is without a doubt a true Arsenal legend.