Smith, 24, told the England coach Sven Goran Eriksson on Sunday that he would prefer to play in last night's reserve team match against Bolton Wanderers at the County Ground in Leyland, Lancashire, in order to advance his first team prospects at United. In a season that ends with a World Cup, that choice struck many as unusual but, as the squad met in Hertfordshire yesterday, Barwick confirmed the move had been received with "disappointment" at the FA.
The kind of dispute with a player that characterised the reign of his predecessor Mark Palios was an unwelcome distraction for Barwick on the day he spelled out his vision for the FA. The chief executive, who has been in the job for more than six months, said that the decision on Smith's future would be made by Eriksson, who has habitually taken a dim view of players who have not endorsed his style of management by consensus.
Barwick said: "Sven wanted him in the squad, Alan Smith wanted some football in his legs. Sven will pick the next squad as well, so he will have plenty of opportunities to either pick Alan Smith or not. Alan Smith was given an opportunity to play for England and chose to play elsewhere. That's probably not the cleverest thing he has done. Turning down that opportunity is a disappointment."
The roots of Smith's dissatisfaction with his place in the England hierarchy go back to the tour of America in May and June when he was reported to have made his feelings known about being selected behind Peter Crouch and Andy Johnson. Although he played a part in both tour games he will have been unhappy to have been called up to the squad for tomorrow's match in Copenhagen only after Johnson was ruled out with injury.
Smith is known in football as a strong, independent character - a schoolboy BMX bike-riding champion, who has stayed steadfastly teetotal all his life - unafraid of sharing his opinions with managers. Eriksson has ended the international careers of other players who have expressed doubts in his management style, such as Robbie Fowler and Gareth Southgate, and as the England coach has such a wide range of strikers to choose from, Smith's ambivalence is unlikely to serve him well.
In his first interview since taking the FA chief executive's job, Barwick expressed his desire that Eriksson see out his contract, taking the Swede through to the end of Euro 2008. He would not discuss the fear that paying off Eriksson, who earns £4.1m a year, would be too expensive should the World Cup go badly.
Although he said that discussing a successor to Eriksson would be premature, Barwick added that the FA had not been inactive in considering a contingency plan should the Swede decide to walk out on the last two years of his contract next summer. "Sven is under contract to 2008," he said. "We are not naive at the FA. We understand the bigger picture.
"I am working to the fact that Sven will work into the next tournament. I do have a good relationship with this man. We do talk. We will talk. When the time comes to replace Sven, we will go out to get the best man available and, if that man is an Englishman, all the better. We are not sitting back benignly."
Barwick, a former television executive at the BBC and ITV, defended his personal loyalties to Liverpool, which are known to have caused suspicion with Sir Alex Ferguson, and said that they would not be allowed to interfere in his job. He also defended the FA's "contingency plan" of booking the Millennium Stadium for this season's FA Cup final on 13 May should the construction of Wembley not be completed in time.Reuse content