Alan Smith: Savouring life in League Two
Written by Ben Dirs — February 16, 2017
MAYBE it sounds like a sad situation: a former Premier League star, with 19 England caps to his name, squeezing out his last for a club in danger of relegation from the Football League.
But before Alan Smith even opens his mouth you see the obsession is still there, in those eyes and that mad dog stare.
In a cluttered office at Notts County’s Meadow Lane ground, a man who says he has never liked the press waxes lyrical about his undying love of football. Like any great love it has been tested. From Leeds United legend to the worst kind of traitor. At least some fans thought. From Manchester United prospect to washed-up crock at the age of 25. At least some fans thought. Fans think what they want, and Smith is happy to let them. As long as he knows what’s what.
“Old team-mates of mine say to me: ‘What are you doing still playing? Why do you still bother?’ I still love it, it’s as simple as that. I’m at Notts County because I want to be and I’ll carry on playing for as long as I possibly can.
“I still have the same enthusiasm and drive I had as a teenager, when I was trying to break into Leeds’ first team. It’s never diminished. Some players might be too proud to drop down the divisions. But that’s not pride. Pride is accepting where you are in life, living in the moment, working hard to get picked on a Saturday. And if you don’t get picked, pride is working even harder.
“Playing in League Two isn’t beneath me. I’m still asking questions at the age of 36. You can never just think: ‘This is me, all I can do is this.’ You won’t survive long with that attitude. Every manager you play under and every team you play in will demand different things from you, so you have to be able to reinvent yourself and keep trying to get better, whatever you’ve already done.”
Mike Edwards, defensive stalwart and club fitness coach, says Smith can still be found gathering up balls and cones after training sessions. Asked if Smith’s team-mates are in awe of him, Edwards says some of them don’t even know who he is or what he has achieved. Smith grins, because he likes it that way.