Arsenal legend turned Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith was used to battling the elements as a professional footballer in a career that spanned more than a decade.
But the Worcestershire born commentator, who would win 13 caps for England after starting out his career at Alvechurch FC, wasn’t expecting the dousing that came his way before Manchester United’s game with West Ham earlier in February.
The ground staff at Old Trafford turned on the sprinkler system prior to kick off to spice up the playing surface – catching Smith and his Sky colleagues unawares.
However Smith, ever the professional, simply soldiered on with his journalistic duties – getting a soaking but earning the plaudits of viewers for his stiff upper lip.
No wonder his nickname is ‘Smudge’!
The most professional pundit in modern football. Alan Smith doesn’t even flinch when the Manchester United ground staff give him both barrels from the sprinkler system. Legend 😅👏🚿 #MUFC #SkySports #livereporting pic.twitter.com/QF5Wd79xgU
— Ben Ransom (@BenRansomSky) February 4, 2024
Gunners On Fire
Smith has been ebullient in his praise for his former club Arsenal this season, who are combining their Premier League title aspirations with hopes of a first Champions League crown.
The Champions League betting odds make the Gunners an 11/2 chance to lift the famous trophy, behind Manchester City (5/6) and Bayern Munich (6/4), with a tough Round of 16 tie against FC Porto to come.
But Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool earlier this month was confirmation that the Londoners have what it takes to battle it out for honours on two fronts this season.
They dominated the Reds from the word go, romping into an early lead and looking the more likely team to score the second goal – which they did, in a fashion, when defender Gabriel inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net.
That equaliser came completely against the run of play, so it was no surprise that the Gunners reasserted their authority in the second period with two more goals – Leandro Trossard’s late strike adding the icing to the cake.
Smith won the old First Division – before its Premier League rebrand – twice with Arsenal, as well as a prestigious European competition: the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. He may soon bear witness to his former club achieving another domestic and continental double.
Remembering Your Roots
Although his job as a Premier League pundit takes him the length and breadth of the country, Smith hasn’t forgotten his ties to the Worcestershire area. Schooled at Kings Norton in Bromsgrove, Smith led the tributes to the boys’ school’s former headteacher, Karl Hearne, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 91.
Now 61, Smith learned his football education at Alvechurch, the Southern League Premier Division Central club that counts the likes of Bromsgrove Sporting, Halesowen Town and Redditch United as local rivals.
He was scouted by Leicester City, who signed the striker on a professional contract and soon put him to work in the first team, where he formed a prolific partnership with Gary Lineker. Their goals would see the Foxes promoted to the First Division in 1983.
They would spend the next four seasons in the top flight, with Smith notching a double-figure goal tally in each – earning him a move to Arsenal in 1987 for £850,000, which was a princely sum in football at the time. Smith later revealed that he turned down the chance to join Manchester United at the same time.
The striker would lead the Gunners’ goalscoring charts in four of his first five seasons, winning the Golden Boot award in 1988/89 in a campaign in which Arsenal won the First Division title – Smith scoring the opener in that incredible final day decider against Liverpool.
In the early 1990s, Smith again achieved the First Division-Golden Boot double, before notching the winner in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Parma in 1994 – that remains the last time that Arsenal got their hands on a continental trophy.
Going on to play for – and score for – England, Smith enjoyed an outstanding playing career and is regularly voted one of the best players in Arsenal’s history. He remains one of Worcestershire’s most famous sporting sons.