The former Leeds United hero made a controversial switch to Manchester United in 2003.

Alan Smith during his last Elland Road appearance

Leeds United are looking like having their best chance of a return to the Premier League for years this season, as Garry Monk has guided them to strong position in the top six of the Championship.

It would be an emotional return to the top-flight for Leeds, who have not been back since their 2003 relegation.

One man who knew what it was like to go down with Leeds that season was Alan Smith. He joined fierce rivals Manchester United that summer, to lose some of the respect from Leeds fans.

But he told Training Ground Guru this week that he simply had to leave for the good of the club, as they were in danger of going out of business:

“The day we lost at Bolton was the worst I experienced in football. That feeling will always stay with me. I couldn’t have done any more myself, but could I have got more out of everybody else? Even the best players can’t play well in every single game, but they drag others through when they’re having a bad day.”

Alan Smith – Manchester United

But he also understood the anger of some Leeds fans, as he had felt the same when Eric Cantona left for Old Trafford:

I did say on telly that I’d never play for Man Utd. But Leeds always said they’d never sell me and I thought they’d never get relegated.

“The new owners of the club told me that if I didn’t sign for Man Utd, there was a chance Leeds might go under.

“Man Utd weren’t offering the most, but they were paying up front. I understood why people slagged me off – I did it myself when Eric Cantona left Leeds for Man Utd. But I was joining the biggest club in Britain, and it was a massive honour that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted me.”

Unfortunately for Smith his career soon began to nosedive. The Englishman suffered a severe ankle break whilst playing for Leeds and went on to be plagued by injuries for the rest of his playing career.

Nowadays, the wounds of the Manchester United move have healed to some degree for Leeds United fans.

Smith, who is now at Notts County, will be one of the happiest men around if Leeds United can return to the big time this season.

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