Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: Nr14 – The Hero of Copenhagen

Arsenal’s Century Club – Alan Smith

alan smith 1 (1)

 Alan Martin Smith: born 21 November 1962 in Hollywood, Worcestershire.

A striker, Smith started his career at non-league Alvechurch in north Worcestershire. He then signed professional forms with Leicester City in June 1982. In his first season, he scored 13 goals in a partnership with Gary Lineker, as the Foxes won promotion to the First Division. He spent five seasons at Leicester, scoring 84 goals in 217 appearances. He was transferred to Arsenal in March 1987, but then loaned back to Leicester for the rest of the season.

His first league goal for the club came on 29 August 1987, when he netted a hat-trick in a 6–0 game versus Portsmouth at Highbury. Smith scored the first goal in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Anfield in May 1989 which saw them lift that season’s league championship. With Arsenal he then won another league title in 1991 as well as a League and FA Cup Double two years later. He also struck the sole goal in Arsenal’s 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory against Parma. Smith was Arsenal’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons, and the First Division top scorer of the 1988–89 season with 23 goals. He also went on to win another Golden Boot in 1991.

He received just one yellow card throughout his entire career.

Whilst at and away from Highbury, Smith scored a sum of 115 goals for Arsenal. All in all Smith has been ranked at 27th within the club’s listing of the 50 greatest Gunners of all time.



First Division: 1988–89, 1990–91

FA Cup: 1992–93

League Cup: 1992–93

UEFA Cup Winners Cup: 1993–94

First Division Golden Boot: 1988–89, 1990–91

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Alan waited until he was 55 before publishing Heads Up, an honest reflection on his life and career in football and, subsequently, journalism.

Intriguingly for Arsenal fans, this approach leads to a revelation about Smith’s “uncomfortable” relationship with star striker Ian Wright, whose arrival at Highbury coincided with a decline in his fellow-centre-forward’s form.

“My relationship with Ian Wright that was something that I’ve never really spoken to Ian about, but to get it down the page it was quite cathartic,” he says.

“I certainly wasn’t enjoying the football at the time. Wrighty came in, and he did more than anybody thought he would do, he became the club’s top goal scorer and he’s rightfully a legend. In life sometimes things don’t happen like you’d thought they would. I thought we’d make a great partnership, and we didn’t really.

“I have had a chat with Ian [about the book] and he appreciated it. He didn’t say too much. He was very good about it.”

Smith’s book includes reflections on Arsenal’s 1990-91 title win, in which he finished the division’s top scorer with 22 goals. Despite losing only one game fewer, that Gunners team has enjoyed nothing like the reverence afforded Arsene Wenger’s unbeaten class of 2003-04.

He scored his 100th goal for Arsenal against Coventry City at Highbury on July 11th 1992.

Arsenal’s Century Club
# Player Years Games ** Goals GPG
14 Alan Smith 1987-95 347 251 115 0.33
15 Frank Stapleton 1972-81 300 276 108 0.36
16 Denis Bergkamp 1995-06 423 296 120 0.28
17 John Radford 1962-76 481 306 149 0.31
18 Joe Hulme 1926-38 374 307 125 0.33
19 Theo Walcott 2005-18 397 370 108 0.27
** Games played to reach 100 goals.

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45 thoughts on “Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: Nr14 – The Hero of Copenhagen

  • Cheers GN5 for a fine post on a former hero who clearly brought a lot to the club. Watching his goals he does not really excite but it proves again that to be a productive nr9 you don’t need to do that. It is about positioning/being at the right spot at the right time and pulling the trigger faster than anybody else, and that is what he seemed to do; and it fitted that GG’s side to a T.

    His nasal, lazy, blokey commentary on Sky is pretty dire and I often have to switch him off. I just wonder whether he left with a bit of a grudge and feels that the Arsenal-under-Arsene got too much praise, and ‘his Arsenal’ too little in the last twenty years or so. Just a thought.

    To be the hero of Copenhagen with the only goal scored is of course a major claim to fame. Very few footballers can say they have done that, even though it was of course a team achievement too (especially that wall of a defence!).

    Cheers again!

  • Thanks for the interesting series of articles.

    I have always felt that when Ian Wright was brought in, the focus of the attacking part of the team completely changed. It was all built around Wright and Smith’s role changed and diminished.

    I can see how he felt resentful because, until then, he had been the focus of the attack and done a great job

    His career at the club went downhill from then onwards. It is understandable that his resentment is reflected in his attitude to us in his current job as a commentator.

    I do not enjoy listening to him, although, at the present time, I do not enjoy watching the team either.

    Despite Ian Wright’s position as second top scorer and “legend”, I still feel it was a mistake to buy him. The team became so focused in him that he was virtually the only one who scored He clearly did not fit into Wenger’s plans either

  • It cannot be forgotten that his second half goal got us on our way to beating Liverpool 2-0 on May 16th,1989 and winning the League Title.

    That game still seems like a fairy tale having to beat the mighty Liverpool by two clear goals on the last night of the season – under the lights in front of a fanatical Liverpool crowd.

  • Another favourite of mine, good old smudger was about the as reliable as a centre forward as you can get. He does sound a bit boring on Sky sometimes, but as GN5 alludes to his very
    delicate glancing header at Anfield means he will always be a hero in my book.

    I don’t remember him ever causing any problems, transfer requests etc. A true professional.

  • Ah, Smudger, what a gem. I got married in ’91. The League title was the best ever wedding present. We lived in St Albans and I’d sometimes see Alan Smith at the local restaurants. They all have their own personal in house chef’s now.

  • It was all about transformation, jjgsol. From the stocky-ish AS to the more mobile IW to young Anelka and then the total athletic/technical CF in TH.

  • Thank you GN5 for the stars of yesterday that normally I will not have forced myself to read about. I heard about him, but that’s mostly it.

    Thank you for writing about how a player he is, and yup he is a good player. I understand his frustration about the Gunners playing football the way he was used to, but the current generation of Wengerball is more pleasing to the eye. Wengerball generated more fans, and previously it was boring Arsenal. However, if you are used to playing one way and then some bloke come in and tried to play another way and you being the current top scorer could not tweak your game to suit that, then it is a pity.

  • That’s so true njk Alan Smith was the hidden gem in GG’s teams – after the back five and the aggressive mid-field had done it’s work Smithy would suddenly appear to glance or tap the ball into the net =1-0 to the Arsenal and usually that was enough.
    Wright, Wright, Wright, Henry, Vieira et al arrived and took away his glory and Wengerball began to take shape and from a very biased supporters viewpoint it was the best football Arsenal have ever played.

  • It’s interesting looking at our different striker types during this period and up till today, as there does seem one particular type of striker, whether they be a target man type like Alan Smith or Kevin Campbell or Olivier Giroud as against more mobile types like Aubameyang, Henry or Wright, it’s just whose available at the time, how you get the best from them and therefore the style of the team.

    Now where does Podolski, Lacazette and Merson fit into that equation?

  • Well njk, I’ll just go over my recollections of the players.

    1) Alan Smith was skillful at ghosting into the right space at the right time to apply the finishing touch.
    2) Kevin Campbell was a strong “old fashioned” center forward who bullied his way into the right space and had incredible aerial skills.
    3) Oliver Giroud had an amazing skill at moving the defense around thus leaving holes for other players to exploit. But when he was given the chance he demonstrated great scoring abilities.
    4) Aubameyang has great ball control along with a special skill for scoring goals – like Smith he can simple ghost into position.
    5) Well Th14 had it all speed, uncanny skill, great movement and scored at will – his highlight reels are on a par to Bergkamp’s
    6) Wrighty played for fun and fun to him was scoring goals. He was a member of one of the greatest Arsenal teams ever assembled and under AW they just seemed to gel together.
    7) Poldolski a blunderbuss flash in the pan with a lethal left foot who could and did score some super goals – including four at Anfield.
    8) Lacazette a bit of an enigma who should do a lot better than he does – he seems to have lost his way. But when he’s on form he can hold the ball up well with his back to the defense – a little like Giroud.
    9) Merson was a parts of GG’s teams he was a good attacking mid- fielder but his highest goals in a season was just thirteen. He is the player who I regard the least among this nine.

  • Sunday morning check-in here… Sorry that I didn’t participate last week. The situation is wearing on me…and, I’ve got some other fish to fry…or maybe hay to make (while the sun is shining)…or something.

    I gotta say…I wish there was some football (to watch), esp. if we could get some Martin Tyler commentary. Question: Was Tyler still working with Smith or did Gary Neville take over as his color guy? In truth, I can’t listen to too much commentary (during Arsenal matches) as so much of it centers on the various “talking points” which have been so overwhelmingly negative for soooo long–like the entire time I’ve watched Arsenal. Controversy–or attempting to divide opinion and assign blame–sells, I guess, but I find it exceedingly mean-spirited (and not nearly complex enough as a means of actually capturing the “truth” of the situation…) (For me,) Tyler is the exception. He words his commentary with generosity even as he might tee up his partner(s?) as he goes about framing the questions. Maybe it’s a case of good cop/bad cop…but, to me, the former players tend to be happy enough to jump on any narrative that’s popular, but particularly the “back in my day, that sort of thing…” blah, blah, blah…

    If that’s the football you like…well, maybe a third tier team–in a broken down former industrial city–is what you ought to support. On that note, thanks for the link, A-Kev… a very enjoyable read. I’ll repost it as I think others might enjoy it…

    And that’s not the only link to North American soccer… That stuff about Stapleton in (the Greater) Boston (Area) was also pretty interesting. They take their sports pretty seriously in New England (which makes me think that I should check in with my Red Sox/Liverpool supporting friends out there who have had some viral sicknesses in the family)…

    Overall, while I can’t really add much to the discussion, I truly do appreciate the series (Cheers again, Mr. N5)…and I occasionally think I should write a post to try and garner a few extra readers. (Tentative title: You Should Be Reading THIS Blog…and commenting too…) But then comes the fish and the hay and the moment passes… Perhaps this next week…

    If I did, however, there’s a chance I might drift towards the politics of the situation (questions of public health vs our economic “needs…”) and that might be hazardous… (And, question for the Britain-based BKers: Any thoughts/predictions about BoJo and his illness and recovery? With the Trumpstar even deeming himself unwatchable, Johnson’s next few statements could get some extra air-time, even over here…)

    Not this morning, however… Instead, I’m back to our laundry/espresso room for round two–at the coffee machine, even if the bottle of bleach is right there as well. And then out into the sunshine, which, in fact, IS my go-to medicine…

    Enjoy your Sunday!!

  • 17tino, as with the Green Bay Packers, I like Detroit United, they’re my kind of club, something that my club Arsenal are in danger of losing, it’s the common touch, that connection to the community, the hard core fans, it’s that sense that we’re all in it together unlike the corporate, passionless, club level is all that counts atmosphere at many Premier League clubs in recent times.
    It’s why the Bundesliga is an attractive alternative for many Brits these days.

  • I love my club, but I’m not sure that I like it anymore, if that makes sense…

  • 17HT I miss all types of sports, football, darts, tennis, golf, snooker, rugby, F1, NFL, even curling – weekends especially are just not the same, maybe never will be. Covid-19 has spread across the world in what seems like a flash, I cannot begin to imagine the torture families are going through in agonizing over someone with the illness, losing them, and then not being able to attend their funeral – it’s a complete tragedy.

    The countries that are lead by women appear to be faring the best, especially New Zealand women must naturally have more empathy. Being locked in (by our son and Prime Minister – both Justin’s) we watch both the daily briefing from both Justin Trudeau & Donald Trump and the difference is like chalk and cheese. Justin is clear, crisp, respectful, and demonstrates deep concern for the Canadian people.
    While Donald Trump cannot put a sentence together let alone a phrase, his main concern are his personal ratings and talks of the American people in terms of the number of deaths and continues to say that he has done everything right and that America leads the world in this, that, and the other – while their are now over 53,000 dead and nearly 1,000,000 infected. His “briefings” are becoming unwatchable – unless you want to grimace and curl your toes. Inject people with bleach no less – what a *****

  • allezkev, In my 73 plus years of supporting Arsenal I thought I’d seen just about everything that could happen to the team but the potential of cancelling or suspending a season never occurred to me. However I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on the field. My passion for the team has rarely diminished but I must admit to finding Emeryball shockingly boring. The season interruption has come at a bad time and has destroyed any momentum that has been gained by Arteta so it will be like starting afresh if this season is ever ended.

    2020/21 is going to be very difficult season financially for all teams and I imagine that there will be very few major transfers. Arteta may have use 2020/21 as a training ground and rely on his batch of youngsters to hone their skills for the 2021/22 season. I hope I make it.

  • GunnerN5, I tried as hard as I could to see some positives from the Unai Emery era, but the football was as indecipherable as any of his pre or post match interviews and it was a huge relief when he finally left. I’ve never felt that way about any previous Arsenal manager before, be it Bruce Rioch or Stewart Houston but from what I’ve been told it got pretty toxic under Billy Wright.

    I think that reducing wages and promoting youth was always going to be the core basis of the team building policy under Raul, Edu and Arteta going forward even before our game was decimated by the Wuhan virus. But as you say it’s going to be a case of probably sell one to buy one this summer transfer window – whenever that will be.

    Completing on Mari and Soares will be a major discussion I’d imagine, not so Ceballos as I expect to see him return to Madrid. After that my biggest concern is securing the future of Bakayo Saka, because if we lose him then we’ll really will look a sad, rudderless and unambitious club.

    Also, because of the financial plight of so many clubs, the next transfer window could provide one of the most advantageous transfer windows ever in recent times for any club willing to ‘push the boat out’ with affordable prices for players and sensible wages, you could do very well if you’re ambitious.

  • Well, Kev, GN5,

    Without TV money lots of lower ranked clubs will go bust. We were a frugal club, and I hope that we have enough cash to get by, and we need to go back to being frugal to stay buoyant. What about the transfers?

    For me, the transfers might not be totally off. A few cheap transfers, not those blockbuster ones, are the way to go. We need to be focusing on our youngsters’ developments as a way of going forward. Bottom line is, staying frugal is the way forward.

    We might need to sell a couple, god knows who, but I would like Ozil to stay. After seeing videos on Bergkamp my first thought was: Ozil was playing in the free role that Bergkamp did. We do not have a free-playing playmaker yet, Ceballos might not be the long term solution as he looks set to return to Madrid, and we have only John-Jules and AMN as the 2 possible players in that position from internal. Tor and Ceballos are B2B midfielders and they play in Rambo’s position.

  • Kev, I know where you are coming from, and I understand the frustration of being an Arsenal fan, where during matches watching the telly is like going through a bad relationship. Anxiety and despair takes over at times, until the odd goal is scored giving us the win, where we will heave a sigh of relief and the next game repeats the same cycle.

    However, I am quietly hopeful that Mikel will take us there. He knows how the Total Football works, how the Barca’s way is different, and how to make the team play comfortably.

    Yesterday I saw youtube videos of F2 visiting the old Highbury, and also visiting the ATC. I passed by Highbury during my trip last year, en route to visiting Emirates, and the feeling of pride when passing by the old stadium and visiting the new one is something that a foreign Gooner is extremely proud of as it is almost a once-in-a-lifetime event.

    Even though I had to watch the game in a pub as we were playing away that weekend, in a pub full of away fans, it is still a good feeling.

    For me, once a Gooner, always a Gooner. Like the past players Gnabry wore the Banana striped away jersey during a Instagram post not too long ago, and Arshavin naming his son Arseny, we have a good number of former players that stayed on as Gunners and supporting the club.

    So Kev, support the players and the tradition of the club is what we Gooners need to do.

  • Wow so many interesting points of view this morning. I could possibly agree with all of them. just my views

    1 Kev, thats a great sentence “you love Arsenal but you are not sure you like them. Couldn’t agree more. I think the problem is we are no longer a family club, we are a business.
    As always money seems to be the root of the problem. The 1970/71 season was brilliant. 1 substitute number 12, if your keeper got injured an outfielder took hs place in Goal AKA John Radford and didn’t David Platt go in goal for Villa at Highbury. No worries about agents, overseas investors, huge salaries, Wags etc let alone all this camera malarky. Just football to worry about. I know the game has to move on , but not for the better IMHO . Plus with the exception of Edu and Arteta who at least have an Arsenal background, do these other guys Raul, the Klankies or was it the Kroenkes really car about our team or is it just a business?

    2 GN5 have pretty much agreed with everything you have said recently until you said that Podolski and Lacazette were better than Merson. Merson has always had problems off the pitch, but he does entertain in his Merson like way. But on the pitch I put him streets ahead of the other two. JMHO

    NJK. I agree with a lot of your points with the exception of Ozil. Ozil had a couple of good seasons but has pretty much done nothing recently, particularly up North. Just my opinion but to say he could play the Bergkamp role??? I know I will get stick for this but in my opinion Bergkamp was the 2nd best player in Arsenals history (ouch ouch) I dont think Ozil will ever be called an Arsenal legend.

    With so much grief going on in the world it does put it all in perspective though.

  • I think I agree with Kevski’s line about love and like re Arsenal. Football clubs need strong, rich owners now, with sensible management of the club. I reckon the Kroenkes manage our club sensibly in terms of finances and having a long term view. I don’t want a sugar daddy approach or loads of risk taking, so the Kroenke’s approach of spending around £70m or so on new players a year works a treat for me, especially with the additional focus on bringing through young talent. Unfortunately, with Dein long gone and Wenger gone too, the club are lightweight in terms of football know-how and vision. Emery was a massive misjudgement as his style of play went totally against what we were all about. It was as if Gazidis – who was a total lightweight – was desperate to wipe out all that Wenger stood for. I am hopeful about Arteta and he has started strong in my opinion, but there is an awful lot of pressure on his managerial shoulders and he will be an ‘easy sacrifice’ for Raul and co if things are not going well. A more experienced manager would probably have been better for us. So the not-like bit is about what the Kroenkes have (not) done to replace the vision, passion and strong focus on Arsenal values of Dein and Wenger and their role in putting Emery, and to a lesser extent Arteta, in charge of our football.

    Having said all that, Covid-19’s impact on the clubs will indeed be massive and next season, if indeed it goes ahead in some form, will be one of new opportunities (and threats) for all. Arteta will be happy to have so much time with the squad and is now able to really introduce his vision and plans for the Arsenal way of playing winning, beautiful football.

  • The best player…. HenKamp. It is impossible to appreciate one without the other – a devastatingly good, dizzyingly-skilled and most deadly football duo to have graced the British football grounds. It was like Mozart AND Beethoven on the pitch together, or Tolstoy and Zola, the Beatles and the Stones, Picasso and Rembrandt, Debbie Harris and Donna Summer, Aretha and Beyoncé, yeah and Arsene and Pep.

    We knew it then and we know it now, it was the pinnacle of attacking football.

  • Stunning video T A. Not to criticise the current crop,of players, but more to applaud the very best.
    I don’t know how many goals were shown but put in similar positions how many would today’s team score?

  • Agreed, Retsub. We have players who can do magic stuff on occasion but we know that Henry and Bergkamp are incomparable.

    I do feel that if Fabregas and RvP had stayed at Arsenal, they would have reached some great combined levels too. But not to the say level.

  • Thanks TA. One can see it over and over and over again without feeling tired of them.
    The 3 players: Pires, Henry and Bergkamp. No one in the current team can replace the trio, And I mean when they are playing together. Auba, Ozil and Pepe are not quite there yet, but we can tweak the way we play to bring the best out of them like how Le Prof did when he became our manager.

  • Good one to add Pires in the mix, 84. He was also very special.

    I think Auba and Ozil have been good but not as great as HenKamp, but then they play in a different era and the PL has become a lot stronger as a league in the last ten years or so. My hopes are on Saka, Martinelli, Willock and Nelson (and a few others).

  • Great writing, GN5.
    That single yellow card is quite exemplary statistic. I haven’t seen him playing, but he must have been some piece of work.

    I haven’t seen Kevin Campbell either, but I’ve been reading his advice recently, and I’m a bit disappointed to be honest.

    Regarding the Pires-Henry-Bergkamp trio I agree that they were unreplicable together. But fully agreeing with TA, the Fabregas-RvP duo was also quite deadly, and in my opinion Alexis Sanchez were an improvement to Pires in most aspects. At the moment Aubameyang is our only player at the moment that belong in the world TOP 10 in his position (Leno is not far), but it is sadly the case that we should be happy to have 1 truly world class player in the squad, while in the invincible era we had 6-8 in the same team.
    Let’s hope we can keep the young starlets at the club and give them proper coaching and guidance, so maybe in 3 years we’ll have a handful of players (Saliba, Saka, Tierney, Guendouzi, Nelson, Martinelli, Nketiah) belonging to the absolute elite.

  • Lets not forget Vieira, Petit and Overmars they also contributed to show us just how magically football can be played.

  • 84 I know that there’s been a lot of speculation regarding the season being cancelled, especially on the back of the Ere Divisie decision, but there’s just too much TV money on the line for it to be called off, somewhere in the region of £750m I believe?

    There’s even been talk of showing more live games than is currently scheduled for in the UK, even on terrestrial television and I can easily see why, because of all the money lost through having no spectators. The clubs need to get it any way they can and TV seems the only way.

  • Hi Retsub, we lived it through the same era and when you say it as you did it seems like another game, like a game from another century and that’s what it is mate with a lot less razzmatazz, a lot simpler and a lot cheaper but some of stadiums, well they were slums. I miss some of the things we enjoyed back then, the camaraderie, but I don’t miss the state of the toilets, crumbling terraces, hooliganism, heavy handed police, it wasn’t sexy back then was it? But it was fun…

    Football is great now, it’s just that I feel more like a customer than a fan, maybe it’s an age thing? 😉

  • Kev, now footy has been a business.. Like how a certain country made a businessman as the president…. And now we were in deep trouble.

    Players wanting to leave for more money has became a norm, and there is no one-club player anymore, and the desire to play well for a club has became diminished.
    Nowadays some players are playing for themselves, not for the shirt anymore. Some players that have been in that club for long is playing his best for the shirt, but nowadays agents make the call, so it is hard to pinpoint who’s who.

  • Sorry to go off topic, but having been a schoolboy in South East London Kent . I was surrounded by Glory hunting supporters of Man Utd etc . Arsenal had won nothing since the 1950’s I believe. I was getting a bit fed up with all the stick I was getting.

    Then on this night 50 years ago today we won the equivalent of Todays Europa Cup, It was called the European Fairs cup. having lost the final first leg to Anderlecht 3 – 1 we then won the 2nd leg at Highbury 3 -0. . I had a ticket but was on a School journey to Derbyshire.GRRRR It took me two days to find out the score.

    Happy Days

  • Clearing Rain by Du Fu

    The sky’s water has fallen, and autumn clouds are thin,
    The western wind has blown ten thousand li.
    This morning’s scene is good and fine,
    Long rain has not harmed the land.
    The row of willows begins to show green,
    The pear tree on the hill has little red flowers.
    A hujia pipe begins to play upstairs,
    One goose flies high into the sky.

  • Hold on BKers, soon the pear tree will shows us its red flowers, the hujia pipe will intoxicate us with its tunes, and the goose will lead us to glory!

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