'I read they'd replace me just three games in!'

Alan Smith
Alan Smith

When Alan Smith joined us from Leicester in 1987, he knew it was going to be a challenge to step up to the next level. 

Speaking exclusively to our 'In Lockdown' podcast, our former striker described the moment he understood the added pressure that comes with playing for The Arsenal. 


"I remember after putting my name on the dotted line," Smith said. "Steve Burtenshaw gave me a tour of Highbury and we went out on to the pitch. 

"I'll never forget, he took me out to the centre spot and he's gone, 'Alan, a lot of centre forwards have come here with the number nine on their back, but not many have been able to succeed.' I thought, 'Oh my god, what have I let myself in for here?' 


"I kind of found out what he meant a few weeks later when we'd gone three games without a win, we'd lost to Liverpool on the opening day and then Manchester United and QPR. Three games without a win and I'm sat in the treatment room the following week and I've picked up The Sun newspaper. On the back, the headline read, 'Arsenal Go For Kerry Dixon', who was Chelsea's chief goal-getter at the time. It said, 'Go for Kerry Dixon because Alan Smith has failed to impress'. I thought, 'Wow, three games... this is the difference between Leicester and Arsenal.' 


"You felt that scrutiny and that pressure to perform, not just in matches but in training as well. You're competing against better players, the standard has been hyped up and you know that you have to respond. Thankfully, on the fourth game I got a hat-trick against Portsmouth and it kind of got me going. 


"You could tell straight away the difference between a club like Leicester, where of course you're expected to do well, but if you went three of four games without scoring not a lot would be said. Whereas at Arsenal, the headlights were on you so to speak. The criticism was never far away."

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