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Thursday 26 April 2012

20 Seasons Awards: Alan Smith on the strikers

Ex-Arsenal forward on the nominees for a place in the Premier League's all-time Fantasy Team

The 10 strikers bidding for a place in the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards Fantasy XI


As part of the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards, fans from around the world and a panel of football experts will choose the perfect Fantasy Team from the history of the competition.

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith, now a respected broadcaster and writer, has played with and against many of the game's great forwards, and he tells why each of the 10 contenders deserves their place on the list...


"He took as much pleasure creating goals as scoring them"
- On Dennis Bergkamp

"I loved watching Dennis play. He was such a thinking man's footballer; he thought about his game and practised a lot, especially on his technique, and he was a very intelligent footballer. He never thought he'd made it.

"I think he was one of those players who got almost as much pleasure out of creating goals than scoring them - the classic number 10 in the Dutch mould. A great testament to his ability was that he could play with all different sorts of strikers and linked well with Ian Wright, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry."


"Eric was such an icon for Manchester United, such a talisman and he scored so many important goals. In the 1995/96 season they won a lot of matches 1-0 and more often than not he was the scorer, which shows you how vital he was.

"He was one of those players who could lift a whole team and lift a whole stadium with the things that he did. A fantastic talent, he had a great amount of faith in his own ability too, which I think all the great players have."


"The famous old Arsenal back four used to ask Andy to go easy on them in training!"
- On Andrew Cole

"I was at Arsenal when Coley came through as a youngster there and you could see then that he wasn't just a goalscorer, he had an all-round game that was very, very good.

"He was only a teenager back then, but that famous old Arsenal back four used to dread playing against the reserves in training if Andy was in the mood - they'd ask him if he could go easy on them! He was very strong, could hold the ball up well and had a great eye for goal."


"As soon as he burst on to the stage you could tell that the kid was a natural finisher, one of the best I've ever seen. He scored a hat-trick against Arsenal in record time when he was a young man, but that showed you the ability of the boy.

"Robbie was a very good striker of the ball, a very clean striker, and he was rightly a massive hero of the Liverpool fans, so yes, he deserves his place on this list because he's a great player."


"The best player I've seen play in this country... Unstoppable"
- On Thierry Henry

"For me, Thierry is probably the best player I've seen play in this country. Not only could he score goals - and lots of them - but he could create them just as easily as well, and he was unstoppable in his prime, absolutely fantastic.

"He did things you'd rarely seen footballers do before and he was so consistent, he never seemed to have a bad game. What a fantastic footballer, so strong and quick, and amazing when he was at his peak."


"Ruud was an out-and-out goalscorer in the truest sense; he didn't get involved in the build-up play as much as some other strikers might but he was always looking for the half chance, always looking to get in behind, slip out of the eyeline of defenders.

"He was a very clever, cute striker, always on the lookout. Goals meant everything to him - a bit like some of the other guys on this list - and he was a fantastic player for Manchester United."


"He hasn't got a weakness in his game, he can do everything"
- On Wayne Rooney

"I love Wayne as a player, I think he's fantastic and he's got fabulous ability. Sometimes we wonder whether he's a goalscorer or a creator, but this season the number of goals he's got - and he's done it before, too - show how good he is.

"Wayne hasn't got a weakness in his game, he can do everything, and he hasn't been booked yet this season either for Manchester United, which is impressive. He drops deeper sometimes and is occasionally asked to play on the left too, but he always gets involved in games, and the amount of goals he scores shows he hasn't suffered."


"When you talk about consistency, here's another one. I mean Alan just scored goals for fun. I was in a couple of England squads with him when he was just a youngster and you could see his single-mindedness even then, not to mention a pretty powerful shot, which we saw countless times in training.

"But scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in football and to do it as often as he did was incredible, especially as he had two serious knee injuries as well. I can see Alan's record of 260 Premier League goals standing for quite a long time."


"George Graham gave up trying to coach him because he was so off-the-cuff"
- On Ian Wright

"Yeah, Wrighty was a team-mate of mine at Arsenal, and a bit like Robbie Fowler he was a very natural finisher. I played with Gary Lineker too and they were all very natural in front of goal. Wrighty could snap up a half-chance on his left or right foot, no problem.

"George Graham gave up trying to coach him because he was one of those off-the-cuff players, but he scored a lot of goals and it was no surprise that he scored as many as he did. He was a lively character, he never shut up, and he'd get almost as much pleasure scoring in training as he did on matchday!"


"Wow, he was a lovely player, Gianfranco. He was another one that never ever thought he'd made it no matter how good he became - he always practised very hard and he was a very humble lad as well for someone so talented.

"He could score, he could create, he was very elusive, he had great control and great technique, and Zola was a real hero to the Chelsea fans. He was such a lovely player to watch, he really was."


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Key Points

  • Premier League is celebrating 20 Seasons
  • Awards for the greatest stars and best moments in Premier League history
  • An expert panel as well as fans will decide on the perfect Fantasy Team