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Alan Smith, ex-Man Utd player, still struggles to walk 17 years after leg break from John Arne Riise’s shot in FA Cup.

Alan Smith, ex-Man Utd player, still struggles to walk 17 years after leg break from John Arne Riise's shot in FA Cup.

Alan Smith, the former England striker, has revealed that he is still struggling to walk 17 years after a John Arne Riise free-kick broke his leg. The injury occurred during a FA Cup fifth-round clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Anfield in 2006. Smith suffered a broken leg and a dislocated ankle when blocking the Liverpool defender’s shot. He was stretchered off on gas and air before being sidelined for months. Sir Alex Ferguson described the incident as one of the worst injuries he had seen, and Smith had “about ten pins” inserted in his ankle.

Smith made his comeback for United seven months after the injury and continued playing for League Two side Notts County until 2018. However, in that year, he admitted that he still suffered from the consequences of the injury. The 19-cap England international said that he knew it would be touch and go whether he could carry on playing. The surgeon had told him that it would be easier to walk away and be remembered as a top Premier League player. However, Smith loved playing football, and his love of it made him go through the pain barrier. He dropped down to the Championship, League One, and League Two, and many people asked him why he was bothering. But if people felt he could still contribute, whether he was earning £500-a-week or nothing, he wanted to keep playing.

Smith continued to say that the injury made him a better person after doing so well so young. He learned that at any time, football can be over. He was lucky to have carried on playing through sheer grit and determination. The good people he met lower down the leagues probably drove him on to stay in football longer. But by the end, the day-to-day training was doing more harm than good. He couldn’t compete at a level he felt he could easily before. He gets out of bed and can’t walk properly; his ankle is stiff all the time.

Smith went for a run in the summer and managed to do a couple of miles but stopped and started walking because his ankle was hurting. He went back last month, and the surgeon said that he didn’t want him doing any straight-line running just because it would damage the joint. It is always difficult to walk away, but when you see someone and they don’t want you running, you know it is the right decision. Smith has no regrets, and for him, retiring early is the easy option.

Smith started his career at Leeds and then joined Man Utd in 2004 for £7million. He then went on to enjoy a spell at Newcastle three years later, making 84 appearances. In 2012, Smith dropped down the divisions with MK Dons and Notts County. After retiring following his release from Notts County, he applied for a US visa so that he could move to Florida in his quest to coach youngsters.

Smith’s dream of coaching in America eventually came true with XL Soccer Academy in Orlando – where he serves as Academy Director. The goal of The XL Academy is to produce National Team players while giving every student the opportunity to perform to their greatest potential on the field and in the classroom.

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