Alan Smith (footballer, born 1980)

Alan Smith (born 28 October 1980) is an English football coach and retired professional footballer who last played for Notts County. He has also represented the England national team, winning 19 caps. Smith was known for his aggressive on pitch mentality and high pressing style of football.

Alan Smith
Smith training for Milton Keynes Dons in 2013
Personal information
Full name Alan Smith[1]
Date of birth (1980-10-28) 28 October 1980[1]
Place of birth Rothwell, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Position(s) Midfielder / Striker
Youth career
1996–1998 Leeds United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1998–2004 Leeds United 172 (38)
2004–2007 Manchester United 61 (7)
2007–2012 Newcastle United 84 (0)
2012 → Milton Keynes Dons (loan) 16 (1)
2012–2014 Milton Keynes Dons 51 (1)
2014–2018 Notts County 86 (0)
Total 471 (47)
National team
1999–2001 England U21 10 (3)
2007 England B 1 (1)
2001–2007 England 19 (1)
Teams managed
2017 Notts County (caretaker)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 14:57, 19 March 2018 (UTC)

Smith first came to prominence as both a striker and a right winger during his early days at Leeds United; however, after moving to Manchester United he broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in a match against Liverpool, whereupon manager Sir Alex Ferguson converted him to a holding midfielder, a role in which he continued after his transfer to Newcastle United. Smith has earned a reputation as a hard-tackling player and is noted for his high work rate.

He had a short spell as caretaker manager of Notts County in 2017, but later reverted to the role of player-coach after the appointment of Kevin Nolan as manager.

Early life

Smith was born and brought up in Rothwell, West Yorkshire, where he attended Rodillian School.

Club career

Leeds United

Smith started his career with Leeds and scored in his first-team debut against Liverpool, aged 18. He went on to become an undisputed first-choice, as the side consolidated on domestic and European fronts, reaching the semi-finals of the 2000–01 Champions League. Smith was part of an offensive line that included Michael Bridges and Australian Mark Viduka.

His senior FA Premier League debut was as a substitute for Leeds United against Liverpool at Anfield, where he displayed his natural scoring ability by scoring with his first shot of the game, three minutes after coming off the bench.[2] That goal helped propel him into the 1998–99 English football season, as he was one-half of manager David O'Leary's first-choice striker pairing, along with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Smith continued his run in the Leeds side, as the club began to grow in stature. He showed his class in 2001 while helping to lead the Leeds side through the Champions League, though his experience ended on a sour note as he was sent off in the semi-final. The following season saw Smith switched to the right of midfield, his versatility being utilised by O'Leary, as the Leeds United manager tried to accommodate new signings. 2001 also saw Smith's break into the England national football team squad. An England youth international at multiple levels, Smith made his senior England debut in May 2001. He did not make the final cut for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and accepted a position with the England Under-21 side. He scored four goals in a UEFA Cup tie at Hapoel Tel Aviv in November 2002.[3] He signed a new three-and-a-half year contract with Leeds in February 2003.[4]

A hometown hero for supporters of Leeds United, Smith won the "Supporter's Player of the Year" award two years running between 2003 and 2004—a first in the club's history. Though his goal tally was not excellent by any means, his willingness to play any role on the pitch and his tireless efforts to save "The Whites" from relegation was greatly appreciated by the Leeds fans.

Leeds' relegation in May 2004 saw Smith kissing the badge on his shirt and crying at what would be his last match for the club. His transfer to bitter rivals Manchester United, however, led to controversy. His exit was marred by accusations of treachery, and in the space of a day he went from hero to villain in the eyes of some Leeds fans; this was despite the fact that club had publicly stated that they could not afford to pay his wages, that they were open to offers for him, and that no other club had registered an interest. Due to the financial difficulties at Leeds, Smith chose to waive the personal transfer fee owed to him by the club. This did not stop some Leeds fans from feeling betrayed, and they held up banners in subsequent games that compared Smith to Judas.

It has since been revealed by Peter Lorimer that the only club Leeds would allow Smith to join was Manchester United, and that Leeds had in fact engineered the move. With Manchester United being the only club offering the requested money up-front, instead of on an instalment basis (as offered by Everton and Newcastle United), and with Leeds facing administration, Smith faced allowing Leeds to go into administration or joining Leeds' bitter rivals.[5] However, Smith had earlier gone on record saying he would never play for Manchester United.[6]

Manchester United

Smith training with Manchester United in 2004

As Leeds were relegated at the end of the 2003–04 season, Smith joined Manchester United for £7 million.[7] The second chapter of his career began on 8 August 2004, in the Community Shield clash against Arsenal, scoring for the club with a swerving volley in the 55th minute, as United lost 3–1. He scored his first league goal against Norwich City, scoring the winning goal with a "stunning volley" in the 49th minute, having earlier setting up a goal for David Bellion.[8]

An injury hampered his first season, causing him to miss out on important matches such as the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea and the 2005 FA Cup Final against Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium, which Manchester United lost on penalties. The forward scored 10 goals overall in his first season, but, with Wayne Rooney in good form and Ruud van Nistelrooy back in the team after injury, was relegated to the bench.

In the summer of 2005, it emerged that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was grooming Smith as a successor to Roy Keane in the Manchester United midfield. Ferguson stated: "Roy sees characteristics in Alan that he saw in himself as a young player, which could help Alan develop into a very good player in that position."[9] Smith got his chance to prove his credentials as a replacement for Keane when the Manchester United captain was injured early in the 2005–06 season. Smith began a prolonged run in the midfield 'anchor' role, with little effectiveness. The criticism aimed at Smith and his teammates reached its peak with United's 4–1 defeat away to Middlesbrough and the subsequent 1–0 defeat to Lille in the Champions League.[10] Smith was believed to be one of several Manchester United stars who were heavily criticised by Keane, in an MUTV interview that was thought too explosive to be aired and consigned to the cutting room floor by club officials.[11][12] It seemed that Smith's performance in the crucial home match against league leaders Chelsea would be meticulously scrutinised in the light of Keane's damning words. Smith responded in determined fashion, his performance in the 1–0 win resulting in The Guardian naming him as the man of the match.[13]

He scored only one goal in 33 appearances in 2005–06, in a 3–1 away win over Charlton Athletic.[14] On 18 February 2006, during a 1–0 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup, Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle while attempting to block a free kick from Liverpool's John Arne Riise, an injury described by Ferguson as "one of the worst I've seen".[15] Reports at the time claimed Liverpool fans attacked Smith's ambulance as it left Anfield,[16] but Smith has since refuted these claims.[17] He had an operation the next day, after which it was estimated that he would be out of the game for around nine months.[18] A week later, Manchester United beat Wigan Athletic 4–0 in the League Cup final. After the match, Manchester United's players paid tribute to Smith by collecting the trophy in T-shirts printed with the words "For you Smudge" (Smith's nickname).[19]

Ahead of the 2006–07 season, Ferguson sold Van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid and said he intended to replace him by returning Smith to his natural centre-forward position: "We are going to convert Alan Smith back into being a forward. He will be back in training soon and should be available by the end of August or the beginning of September."[20] After three appearances for the reserves in August 2006,[21][22][23] Smith returned to the Manchester United first team in September 2006, first as an unused substitute in the 3–2 home win over Celtic in the Champions League on 13 September,[24] before taking the field for the last five minutes of the 1–0 away win over Benfica two weeks later.[25]

Smith made his first start for eight months in Manchester United's 2–1 away win over Crewe Alexandra in the fourth round of the League Cup.[26] However, he was still not fully match-fit and made only one substitute appearance in the next four months. As he continued his training, both Cardiff City and former club Leeds United expressed an interest in signing Smith on loan, but he said he intended to fight for his place in the Manchester United team.[27]

Smith returned to action again in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie against Lille on 7 March 2007, coming on for goalscorer Henrik Larsson in the 75th minute of the 1–0 win.[28] He made his first start at Old Trafford since his injury on 14 March in a friendly against a Europe XI to commemorate 50 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome. His first competitive start at Old Trafford, however, came on 19 March 2007 in an FA Cup quarter-final replay win over Middlesbrough.[29]

After a succession of games in which he was either a substitute or substituted himself, Smith played the full 90 minutes of Manchester United's Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Roma on 10 April 2007 as Manchester United won 7–1; he scored Manchester United's second goal in the 17th minute, his first goal since November 2005.[30] He was then named in the starting line-up against Manchester City on 5 May 2007; United won the game 1–0[31] and were crowned league champions a day later, when Chelsea were held to a 1–1 draw at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal.[32]

Despite falling one game short of the 10 appearances needed to qualify for a Premier League winner's medal, the league granted special dispensation for Smith to receive a medal on the last day of the season.[33] He made his last competitive appearance for Manchester United a week later in the 2007 FA Cup Final against Chelsea, the first final played at the new Wembley Stadium, coming on for Darren Fletcher in the second minute of extra time.[34]

Newcastle United

Smith applauding Newcastle supporters

Smith appeared in all four games of Manchester United's pre-season tour of the Far East, but on 2 August 2007, Newcastle United confirmed they had reached an agreement to sign Smith for around £6 million. The deal was confirmed on 3 August, with Smith moving to Newcastle on a five-year contract.[35] He scored the winning goal on his debut for the Magpies, in a 1–0 friendly victory against Sampdoria. However, the striker struggled to establish himself at Newcastle in his first season, failing to score a league goal.

His progress next season was hampered by stress fracture of the ankle sustained in the pre-season, meaning it took until February 2009 before he played in a competitive fixture by coming on as a substitute against Everton. Despite the comeback, Smith was relegated for the second time in his career as Newcastle lost by a single goal to Aston Villa.[36] Again, he finished the season without a goal.

In the summer of 2009, Smith played against his former club Leeds United in a pre season friendly at St James Park, the match was the first time he had played against Leeds since leaving the club for bitter rivals Manchester United,[37] his every touch was booed throughout the game by Leeds fans and he was heavily booed when he was substituted. Smith was made vice-captain for the 2009–10 season, but captained the team in almost every game due to Chris Hughton's preference of Smith to first choice captain Nicky Butt. Smith has been a regular feature, but in a much deeper role acting as a central defensive midfielder.[38]

Despite playing regularly as a deep lying midfielder, he lost his place after the January transfer window with the arrival of Wayne Routledge and Danny Guthrie's excellent form in central midfield. To allow two strikers up front in the form of Peter Løvenkrands and Andy Carroll for more games, Smith was dropped to accommodate. Newcastle won promotion to the Premier League.

Smith started Newcastle's first four Premier League games due to the injury of Danny Guthrie, Smith partnered Joey Barton for the 3–0 loss to former club Manchester United, the 6–0 victory over Aston Villa, the 1–1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers and the 2–0 loss to Blackpool. He lost his place to new signing Cheick Tioté and the arrival of Hatem Ben Arfa. Smith was given time in the Football League Cup, where Chris Hughton gave young players and fringe players such as himself, Ryan Taylor and Peter Løvenkrands a chance.

Alan Smith served a lot of bench duty with Cheick Tioté cementing his place as the inform defensive midfielder. Smith saw a return to action in Newcastle's 3–1 cup defeat to Stevenage on 8 January 2011.[39] With Tioté suspended for three games following his sending-off in the same game, Smith started in Newcastle's 1–1 derby draw with Sunderland, but came off after half an hour with an injured ankle. It was later confirmed it would rule Smith out for the rest of the season.[40]

After returning to full training in April, it was reported by assistant manager John Carver that he would be in contention to start Newcastle's penultimate fixture to Chelsea with the club likely to rest Cheick Tioté to save him from a 3 match ban.[41]

On 7 June 2011, Smith was notified by the Newcastle management that his services would no longer be required, and he was free to leave the club.

On 8 June 2011, Leeds United chairman Ken Bates revealed that he was not ruling out a move to acquire Smith subject to his wage demands and fitness.[42] After being made available for transfer, Smith was linked with a move to his former club Leeds United with Leeds manager Simon Grayson confirming his interest in the player.[43]

He was released by Newcastle United on 1 June 2012.[44]

Milton Keynes Dons

On 29 January 2012, Smith joined Milton Keynes Dons on loan until the end of the season.[45] His first appearance was as a 50th-minute substitute for Adam Chicksen on 31 January 2012 in a League One game against Sheffield Wednesday. The game ended as a 1–1 draw.[46] He made his first start for the club on 4 February 2012, playing 66 minutes of the 1–1 draw against Huddersfield Town, before being replaced by Jabo Ibehre.[47] On 23 February 2012, Smith completed his first full 90 minutes for the Dons in the 2–1 win against Bury. The winning goal of the game came as a result of a penalty which Smith won just before half-time, after he was fouled by Bury goalkeeper Cameron Belford before Dean Bowditch duly converted the spot-kick.[48] On 21 April, he scored his first goal in five years, in a 1–0 win against Sheffield United.[49] On 15 May 2012 he came on as a substitute for MK Dons in the League One play-off semi-final against Huddersfield Town scoring with a diving header in injury time.

On 31 May 2012, it was reported that MK Dons manager Karl Robinson had opened talks with Smith's representatives over a permanent move to the club. Smith made 18 appearances after joining the club from Newcastle United in late January, scoring two goals in the process. The move was completed on 10 July, with Smith signing a two-year contract.[50] Smith has taken control of MK Dons XI sides in the Berks & Bucks Cup, alongside former coach Ian Wright, as well as featuring in the unfamiliar position of centre back for a game. On 16 May 2014 Smith was released from the club along with three other players.

Notts County

Smith signed for Notts County on a one-year contract in 2014 as a player-coach.[51] He signed a new one-year deal in May 2015.[52] He had a short spell as caretaker manager of Notts County in 2017,[53] but later reverted to the role of player-coach after the appointment of Kevin Nolan as manager.[54]

He was released by Notts County at the end of the 2017–18 season.[55]

International career

An England youth international at multiple levels, Smith was called into the England squad for the friendly against Italy in November 2000, but later withdrew in order to rest.[56] He eventually earned his first cap in May 2001 in a friendly against Mexico, but did not make the final cut for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and continued representing the under-21s. Smith scored on his full debut against Portugal in September 2002, being set up by Leeds teammate Lee Bowyer. In a Euro 2004 qualifier against Macedonia in October 2002, he received his first international red card from a second yellow card after a tackle on Aleksandar Vasoski[57]

In August 2005, Smith drew some criticism after withdrawing from the England squad to play Denmark (a game England lost 4–1) in order to play for the Manchester United reserves.[58] After a prolonged absence from international football, Smith was called up for an England B match on 26 May 2007, against Albania. He scored the first goal of the game which ended in a 3–1 win.[59] The next day he was named in the senior team to face Brazil, on 1 June 2007.[60]

Post-playing career

As of December 2020, Smith lives in the Orlando, Florida area working with male and female youngsters as a coach at the XL Soccer World Academy.[61]

Career statistics


As of match played 12 May 2018[62][63]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Division AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals
Leeds United 1998–99 Premier League 227420000269
1999–2000 Premier League 26431108[lower-alpha 1]1386
2000–01 Premier League 3311201016[lower-alpha 2]75218
2001–02 Premier League 23410205[lower-alpha 1]1315
2002–03 Premier League 33341006[lower-alpha 1]5439
2003–04 Premier League 3591020389
Total 1723815460351422856
Manchester United 2004–05 Premier League 31630215[lower-alpha 2]21[lower-alpha 3]14210
2005–06 Premier League 21120208[lower-alpha 2]0331
2006–07 Premier League 9030204[lower-alpha 2]1181
Total 6178061173119312
Newcastle United 2007–08 Premier League 3302020370
2008–09 Premier League 60000060
2009–10 Championship 3202010350
2010–11 Premier League 1101020140
2011–12 Premier League 20000020
Total 8405050940
Milton Keynes Dons (loan) 2011–12 League One 161––2[lower-alpha 4]1182
Milton Keynes Dons 2012–13 League One 27160201[lower-alpha 5]0361
2013–14 League One 24020102[lower-alpha 5]0290
Total 672803051833
Notts County 2014–15 League One 23000103[lower-alpha 5]0270
2015–16 League Two 28010002[lower-alpha 5]0310
2016–17 League Two 19020101[lower-alpha 5]0230
2017–18 League Two 17040104[lower-alpha 6]1261
Total 87070301011071
Career total 47147434231521716360572
  1. Appearances in UEFA Cup
  2. Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  3. Appearance in FA Community Shield
  4. Appearance in League One play-offs
  5. Appearance(s) in EFL Trophy
  6. Three appearances and one goal in EFL Trophy, one in League Two play-offs


Appearances and goals by national team and year
National teamYearAppsGoals
England[64] 2001 30
2002 31
2004 70
2005 30
2007 30

International goals

England score listed first, score column indicates score after each Smith goal.[65]
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition
1 7 September 2002Villa Park, Birmingham, England4 Portugal1–01–1Friendly

Managerial statistics

As of match played 7 January 2017
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L GF GA GD Win %
Notts County (caretaker)[66] 3 January 2017 12 January 2017 1 0 0 1 1 4 −3 000.00
Total 1 0 0 1 1 4 −3 000.00


Leeds United

  • FA Youth Cup: 1996–97[67]

Manchester United

Newcastle United

  • Football League Championship: 2009–10[69]



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