Alan Smith was a striker's dream partner and was pretty nifty at banging in the goals too.
George Graham bought the rangy forward to Highbury in 1987 in what was, unusually for the time, quite a protracted transfer. Arsenal's agreement with Leicester came too late in the day meaning that Smith was loaned back to the Filbert Street outfit for the remainder of that season.
|Arsenal Career||1987 - 1995|
|Appearances||347 (318 starts, 29 as a sub)|
When Smith eventually moved south, it took him time to adapt.
Smith spent his first Christmas in London in the midst of a goal drought and was soon replaced, albeit briefly, by the younger Niall Quinn. As the critics sharpened their knives above Smith's head, the front man fought back with characteristic determination. He ended his first season with a goal in the Littlewoods Cup Final defeat to Luton and hit the ground running in 1988/89.
In the opening fixture of that season the West Midlands native plundered a hat-trick against Wimbledon, setting the tone for a hugely profitable season. His attributes, though, ran far deeper than just his finishing.
Standing at over six feet tall, Smith combined his intelligence with an unfailing work ethic to become one of the top-flight's supreme target men. His ball retention was second-to-none and, despite a clear 'English centre-forward style', he also had a penchant for cute, subtle touches. If a team-mate made the right run, he could be sure Smith would find him with a flick-on or well-timed pass.
As Arsenal charged towards the title, Smith continued his own assault on the Golden Boot. On the final day of the season both accolades were secured as all aspects of Smith's improvement came to the fore at Anfield. The front-man glanced home the game's opening goal, his 23rd of the season, from a Nigel Winterburn free-kick, and turned provider for Michael Thomas' historic strike in the dying seconds. Cue pandemonium.
The following year Arsenal and Smith failed to hit the heady heights of the season before, but all was good again in 1990/91. Alan found the net on 22 occasions and excelled as a provider, aptly supported by Messrs Merson, Campbell and Limpar. But Smith's increasing years sparked a downturn in goals.
Nevertheless he saved one his best strikes until last. With Ian Wright suspended for the Cup Winners' Cup Final in 1994, Smith shouldered huge responsibility against Parma in Copenhagen. He answered the calls of the Highbury faithful with a sumptuous left-foot volley in the 21st minute to decide matters.
It sealed Arsenal's first European success in almost a quarter of a century, as well as Smith's place among the Club's greatest ever players.