The ex-Arsenal player who gained access to the club and then went too far

As a player at Arsenal Alan Smith was widely admired.  A George Graham purchase he delivered as a centre forward in as much as he scored 86 goals in 264 games.  Not the very best centre forward rate, but still a very welcome input into the team.

After retiring he took up journalism, appearing on TV and writing reports for newspapers, but he retained a close link to Arsenal and worked on interviewing Arsenal players for the club’s own magazine.

But he felt he still had the freedom to criticise Arsenal players in any way he liked, while having priviledged access to them via the club.  Which when you think about it, is very odd.

It seems from the outside a somewhat naieve view of reality – having close access to the players for articles commissioned by Arsenal meant that he had to keep good relations with those players.  Or at least that is how most of us who have worked in any form of journalism have seen things.  You can’t accept the money from one organisation and then attack that organisation or its staff.  If you want to attack and criticise, fine, but don’t accept the company’s money at the same time.

Anyway, Smith didn’t get that, and it seems he never quite got it even when it was spelled out to him, for he went on to write rather dull pieces trying to justify himself to Telegraph readers.  In later writing he seemed to be constantly bemused that having launched fierce attacks on Arsenal players for their style, he was no longer welcome, and had his commission to write for the club magazine withdrawn.

Even now one is left puzzled. What on earth did he expect when he started really lashing into players?  Did he seriously think he could then turn up at the training ground and do nice and friendly interviews with the guys whom he had just slaughtered in the Telegraph?

A curious man who, on this day in 2016 tried yet again to justify himself with another Telegraph piece showing that even after all this time, he still hadn’t got it at all.

Here are the anniversaries.

October 1895 (exact date unknown): Royal Ordnance Factories FC (the club that split from Woolwich Arsenal in 1893) turned professional, suggesting either that the split between ROFFC and Arsenal was not over professionalism, or more likely that the management of ROFFC changed its mind, on seeing the success of Woolwich Arsenal after 1893.

1 October 1870: David Howat born in Preston.  He played for Fishwick Ramblers, and Preston North End, before moving to Woolwich Arsenal for whom he played between 1889 and 1896.

1 October 1918: The Mayors of London hired the Palladium for a charity event for soldiers blinded during the war.  Among the entertainers was the comedian, singer and actor George Robey, an acquaintance of Sir Henry Norris on the charity football matches circuit.  Robey was particularly known for the song “If you were the only girl in the world,”

1 October 1913: Reginald Trim born this day in Portsmouth.  He became the captain of England Schoolboys at left back, signing for Arsenal in April 1933 and remaining with the club until 1937 despite making just one first team appearance during all that time.

1 October 1925:  The new tactics evolved at half time in response to the 7-0 defeat by Newcastle were tried out again just two days later in an away game at West Ham.  Arsenal won 4-0. Buchan later wrote, “the novelty of Arsenal’s new methods took the other League clubs by surprise,” although results elsewhere suggest lots of experiments were going on.  But Arsenal’s approach was effective for by Christmas Arsenal were top of the league.

1 October 1930: 14 miners were killed in an explosion in the coal pit at Cannock.  It is a tragic theme we find repeated throughout the 1930s.

1 October 1952: Arsenal and Racing Club de Paris continued their long series of friendlies.   For the first time in the series Racing Club beat Arsenal 2 – 0.

1 October 1953: Derek Tapscott joined Arsenal from Barry Town for somewhere between £2000 and £4000 (depending on the source one reads). He had earlier had a trial with Tottenham, but was signed by Tom Whittaker after Tottenham turned him down.

1 October 1957: Ian Allinson born in Stevenage. He started out with Colchester Utd in became Young Player of the Year and a professional in October 1975.  At the end of the 1976/7 season he scored the winning goal in the final game to gain promotion for the club.

1 October 1966: George Graham’s Arsenal debut and he scored – but the game finished Arsenal 2 Leicester 4.

1 October 1966: Bob McNab signed from Huddersfield.  He had played for them 68 times between 1963 and 1966 before being signed by Bertie Mee in October 1966 – two months into his reign.

1 October 1969: Geoff Barnett signed from Everton for £35,000.  Bob Wilson had a broken arm, and Mee was not sure about Malcolm Webster who had come up through the youth system.  Webster did however make 3 appearances in 1969/70.

1 October 1994: Arsenal 1 Crystal Palace 2 left Arsenal with only two wins in the first eight league games.  Even worse in five of those games Arsenal had failed to score. Arsenal were 14th, 14 points off the leaders, only 3 points off relegation in what was to be Graham’s final season as manager.

1 October 1996: Arsène Wenger officially took up duties, as Arsenal’s first non-British manager, and rumours soon began to be circulated suggesting that he had been forced to leave his previous job because of a scandal.  This eventually led to the later infamous “What rumours?” confrontation with journalists on the steps of Highbury.

1 October 1988:  With Frank McLintock as part of their coaching team Millwall went top of the 1st division.

1 October 2000: Arsenal beat Man U as Henry, with his back to goal flicked the ball up before pivoting to strike the ball over Barthez.  It started a five game winning run for Arsenal and was Man U’s first defeat of the season.

1 October 2016: Alan Smith’s article “My complicated relationship with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal” in the Telegraph sought to excuse his attack in that paper on the players of his ex-club relating to the Man U game in the Invincibles season, an attack made while he was contracted to Arsenal and had privileged access to players for club interviews.  It was an attack for which he has never felt it was right to apologise and was followed by many negative reports on Arsenal.

1 October 2017: Arsenal beat Brighton 2-0 with goals from Monreal and Iwobi to make it 3 wins and a draw in the last four, after two earlier defeats to Stoke and Liverpool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *