FA charges Smith over bottle-throwing

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The Independent Football

The Leeds United striker Alan Smith was yesterday charged with improper conduct by the Football Association over a bottle-throwing incident during the game with Manchester United at Elland Road last month.

Smith threw a plastic bottle back into the crowd during Leeds' 3-2 defeat in the Carling Cup on 28 October. The FA charged Smith with improper conduct and the player has until 9 December to respond.

Smith was arrested by police over the incident but later released without charge. His arrest cost him his place in the England squad for the friendly against Denmark at Old Trafford ten days ago as he was selected and then dropped after the FA found out that he had been arrested.

The 23-year-old apologised for his behaviour before the police investigation, but was left out for the Denmark game because of the FA's strict policy of not selecting players facing disciplinary charges.

England players were furious when the Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was left out of the squad for the Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in Istanbul while the FA investigated his failure to attend a routine drugs test. Smith's expulsion from the squad caused more consternation, with the England captain, David Beckham, demanding that the FA revises its procedures.

Leeds later issued a statement which read: "Alan Smith and Leeds United have been informed of the charge. We will now review the situation and issue a further statement in due course."

On a happier note for the club, their young player James Milner is coping with the pressures of life at Elland Road, according to his caretaker manager, Eddie Gray. Milner's determined display in the 2-0 home defeat to Bolton was one of the few bright spots on another dark day for the Yorkshire side, who are bottom of the Premiership and saddled with around £80m of debt.

Gray admits the situation must be hard to bear for the 17-year-old from Horsforth, who feels Leeds' failures more keenly than most.

"James is always enthusiastic but it's a difficult situation for him because he's a Leeds boy and he'll be feeling for the club," Gray said. "He shows great enthusiasm and has great ability, but he's only young and it is difficult for him as well to come into this situation when the club are bottom of the table. But he's got a good head on his shoulders and is managing to cope, and we just need to do our bit at times to make sure we take some of the pressure off him."