Tag Archives: Alan Smith

89 The Film – An interview with the stars

We were given an opportunity to interview Lee Dixon, Amy Lawrence, Alan Smith and David O’Leary before the world premiere of 89, the film documenting Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool at Anfield in 1989.

Andy, from our friends over at The Arsenal History went along, this is his blog.

If you’re an Arsenal fan you’ve probably seen plenty of publicity around the new film “89” that recounts the story of THAT night at Anfield 28 years ago. Today I was lucky enough to be involved in a roundtable Q&A session with some of the stars of the film, along with a number of other renowned Arsenal bloggers.

The session took place at the Renaissance Hotel in St Pancras. If you’re a Harry Potter fan you will recognise it as the hotel from which Harry & Ron drove their flying car from when they missed the Hogwarts Express. It’s a fantastic building, and I expect the rooms are a little out of my budget.

With everyone having arrived on time we were kept waiting for a while, looking expectantly at every movement further along the corridor. Then Michael Thomas just strolled by. We all looked on incredulously as he gave us a smile, leaving us wondering if it was really him.

We were split into two groups, and each group was ushered into a room – Lee Dixon and Amy Lawrence were already waiting for us. I don’t think any of us knew exactly what we were supposed to be doing but having been told we only had 15 minutes we quickly set about asking questions.

I asked Lee when, following a fairly inconsistent start to the season, the team started to believe that they had a chance of winning the league. Lee said that it wasn’t until around Christmas when they were top that they thought “we’re a long way into the season and still up there so we must be doing something right.” That was a culmination of what they had been practising on the training pitch over a number months starting to come to fruition. By then they had become somewhat fearless; this mixture of one group of talented young kids from London and another of “lower league reprobates” who were keen and hungry, and happy to be disciplined by George Graham because it meant that they were winning.

And as a follow up: did they think that they had cocked it up towards the end of the season as we faltered and Liverpool finished like a steam train? “Most days” was the answer. As they got closer to the prize, fear kicked in. The Derby defeat was big but not too bad as we had Wimbledon at home. However, that draw made them think, “uh-oh” especially as that was pretty much the reaction they felt from the crowd as well. It was at this point that they thought they had messed it up because it was inevitable that Liverpool would beat West Ham leaving them with an almost impossible task.

This led into Amy talking about her experience of going to the game. There was a degree of “maybe we can” amongst the travelling Gooners as they boarded the coaches to Anfield, being cheered off by local schoolchildren and people who may not have been to a game in years, if ever. It seemed strange that they were being wished “good luck” as if the fans were actually going to take part in the game itself.

With our 15 minutes up, Lee and Amy departed, and we were then joined by Alan Smith and David O’Leary. After a couple of questions about big names that had left, the number of centre backs that George Graham bought – possibly in an attempt to replace O’Leary – and the change in tactics towards the end of the season, I asked them if the Hillsborough tragedy had affected them in any way, either personally or professionally.

Smith said that, obviously, the events on the day had upset them and he felt for Kenny Dalglish and his team who attended funeral after funeral in the ensuing weeks. There was also a break of more than two weeks before the next game against Norwich which affected them mentally and physically as they were only ticking over in training. Those two weeks also proved beneficial to Smith as it gave him time to recover from a fractured cheekbone which had been sustained in the game against Manchester United.

As our time came to a close I asked O’Leary if it was worth the wait (it was his 14th season at Arsenal). I’m not sure anyone could ask a more rhetorical question, of course it was worth the wait but he thought that they had blown it after the Derby and Wimbledon games. The final whistle at Anfield was the greatest he had ever heard in his life. I have to say that one of my own recollections of that night was of how chuffed I felt for him as he had stayed loyal to the club despite being courted by the likes of Manchester United.

And then it was all over. I would like to express my thanks to Lee, Amy, Alan and David for a fantastic time and being so candid with their answers, and to She Wore for letting me represent them. An afternoon that I will remember for the rest of my life.

89 will be released on November 20th 2017. Pre-order today.

The Arsenal History


Jamie Vardy: The New Ian Wright

I went down the Lane,
The other night,
To tell the Y**s,
We got the new Ian Wright,

They said to me,
How can that be?
I said to them,
We got Thierry Henry…

Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry,
Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry,
Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry,
Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry!

10 JAN 1996:  Ian Wright of Arsenal listens to the cheers of the supporters after he scored in the Coca Cola Cup quarter final match against Newcastle at Highbury.

That was 1999. 17 years ago. And whilst Thierry Henry was Ian Wright like when putting the ball into the back of the net, on and off the pitch he was a completely different character.

Less charismatic. More thoughtful. More concerned with his own image. Not a bit of a nasty piece of work.

And it is that last one which set Ian Wright apart from other strikers in the 1990s. He was a nasty piece of work.

Whilst England was full of polite, well-mannered player; Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Gary Linekar, Les Ferdinand. Ian Wright for all intents and purposes, a bit of a scum bag.

Growing up on a council estate in poverty, 3 to a bed, he would do time in Chelmsford before getting his break as a professional footballer. At 21 he was working manual jobs in Greenwich, already a young father to both Shaun and Bradley, he finally got his chance at Crystal Palace just 3 months shy of his 22nd birthday.

At Palace, he developed into one of the most deadly strikers in England. including when he scored a hat-trick in just eighteen minutes in Palace’s penultimate game of the 1990/91 season away to Wimbledon.

Whilst scoring goals, he never forgot where he was from, who he represented. He was still that nasty piece of work from the streets. Happy to put his foot in. Wind an opponent up. Start a fight.

In 1991 he joined Arsenal, he was a little shy of 28. The medals, the records, the suspensions, the FA disciplinary records, they all rolled in.

We all loved him, opponents all hated him.

He was a nasty piece of work on the pitch, but a deadly goal scorer. A c**t but our c**t.

25 years after we signed him, Arsenal are on the verge of repeating a similar feet. Jamie Vardy.

Vardy has taken a similar, and well written about, path to Premier League football. From non league to Premier League in less than 5 years.

He has scored goals everywhere he has been, but at no point has he lost his edge. His nasty streak. That thing you need when playing Saturday league football in Sheffield.

He is not politically correct, he is not interview trained, he, like Ian Wright, is just a normal bloke who is good at football. And came into the game late enough that he has not had his personality, his nastiness, coached out of him.

Wright was signed for £2.5m when the world record transfer fee was just £8m. Vardy will join for around £20m when the world record is £80+. Fairly similar prices.

I will never forget the first time I heard about Jamie Vardy. He was at Fleetwood Town and someone I go football with, who is also from Fleetwood, was banging on about him. “He will play for England one day” “I’d love Wenger to sign him” “31 goals in 36 games”. Of course, we all laughed. He was in the conference at the time!

In one year at Fleetwood he became a club legend, scored the goals to win them the conference, then moved to Leicester City for £1m.

Already at Arsenal, we have our Alan Smith, by Monday I hope we have signed our new Ian Wright.

I went down the Lane,
The other night,
To tell the Y**s,
We got the new Ian Wright,

They said to me,
How can that be?
I said to them,
We got Jamie Vardy…

Jamie Vardy, Jamie Vardy,
Jamie Vardy, Jamie Vardy,
Jamie Vardy, Jamie Vardy,
Jamie Vardy, Jamie Vardy!


Have Arsenal found the new Alan Smith?

Signed at the age of 25 having scored 39 goals in all competitions over the previous two seasons, a 6′ 3″ striker who was strong in the air, had an eye for goal, but was a tad immobile.

The above description is not about Olivier Giroud but Arsenal legend Alan Smith. Although it could quite easily be about the Frenchman.

I have been thinking for some time that Giroud is the new Alan Smith. Now before all you lads who consider yourself ‘old school’ and think how much better things were back in your day stop reading, hear me out. I am not saying that Giroud is in any way better than Alan Smith, he is not. What I am saying is that he is the new Alan Smith.

Both were signed at 25
Both scored 39 goals in the previous two years for their respective clubs
Both were strong in the air
Both could sniff out a goal in the box
Neither could run very fast

You have two players of very similar talent. Yet one is labelled a legend of the club. The other labelled, unfairly, as a lamppost. A French ponce.

Yes, Alan Smith was First Division (what the Premier League was known before Sky) top scorer (twice) and led the line to two league titles, including THAT one in 1989, and is rightly an legend of the club. But let us compare him fully to Olivier Giroud.

In his first 3 seasons at the club, Alan Smith scored 54 goals in 137 games. Giroud, 58 in 144. Giroud is 1 in 2.48 over the period, Smith 1 in 2.53.

And if you include the latest season, and take it over Smith’s first 5 seasons (the last two he was a target man playing for Ian Wright than the main man), their statistics remain similar. Giroud scores 1 in 2.19 for Arsenal. Smith scored 1 in 2.36.

Their records are near identical. Now of course, there are things to be taken into account· Different era’s. Alan Smith playing often with Paul Merson (or Kevin Campbell, or latterly Ian Wright around him), Giroud playing with Ozil & Sanchez, but these in my mind equal themselves out. And the era’s might be different, but the qualities that both men bring to a side are the same.

With 72 Arsenal goals already to his name, it is likely that Giroud will overtake Smith’s 115 at the end of next season. That would put him 13th on Arsenal’s all time goal scorers list.

I would not be too surprised if Giroud ends up in the top 10. Above the likes of Smith & Dennis Bergkamp. Not bad for a lamppost.

One thing I wondered, if Giroud was English, a working class hero, like Smith, would he be as heavily criticised as he is now?

Giroud does a lot wrong. He looks lazy at times. The hand waving when he pretends to be injured. The good looks. But he is clearly a class act. Not World Class, but neither was Smith.

Many of us would have already read the following infographic over the last week. It makes you think.UntitledIt certainly made me think. We talk about Jamie Vardy being a great rags to riches story. Of a Hollywood film being made of his life. About Ian Wright being a great coming up from non-League to Premier League. Yet Giroud is no different.

The fact is Giroud is a brilliant striker. He is a goal scorer. When we had Thierry Henry, we all moaned that we did not have a big presence in the box. Now we have Olivier Giroud, we moan that we don’t have someone with pace who can beat a man.

Well let me tell you, the perfect striker, someone who is 6′ 3″, great in the air, can beat a man and has searing pace, does not exist. and if he did, his cost would be astronomical. £100mtransfer fee. £300k a week in salary.

Giroud has the ability to become an Arsenal great. He has already lead the line to 2 FA Cup wins, and just needs (alongside the rest of the team) to start adding league titles to his honours roster.

I find it confusing that many people who praise Alan Smith, idolise him even, criticise Giroud.

Now again, get off your high horse, I am not saying Alan Smith is inferior to Giroud, or that Giroud is an Arsenal legend. I am saying that in terms of talent, they are equal. That they provide similar in both attributes and goals to the team.

So maybe it is time to get off Giroud’s back. If Alan Smith was one of your hero’s growing up, think to yourself, is he so different to Giroud?

Maybe it is time to reword a classic song:

“I was down the pub the other night,
My mate said to me I’ve seen the new Alan Smith,
I said to him may I ask who?
He goes by the name of Olivier Giroud!”

If Olivier Giroud go’s on and has a similar Arsenal career to Alan Smith, no one would be able to deny him the praise he would deserve.