The growing buzz of anticipation at Highbury was temporarily silenced yesterday when one of Arsenal's recent heroes was forced to retire from the game. Alan Smith, who scored the goal that won the European Cup-Winners' Cup final in Copenhagen 15 months ago, has finished his career at the age of 32 due to a knee injury.
Smith won 13 England caps and two championship medals. Having begun with non-League Alvechurch, he joined Leicester City, where he played alongside Gary Lineker, before moving to Highbury for a then club record pounds 850,000 in March 1987.
Although goals became scarce in later years, he was top scorer in his first four seasons and scored the opening goal in Arsenal's memorable championship-clinching win at Anfield in 1989. "Everyone wants to play until they are 35, but my knee problem means I am unable to," Smith said. "I cannot complain as I have had a really good career."
Nick Barmby yesterday confirmed he wants to leave White Hart Lane. The 21-year-old England international said he wanted be nearer his family in Hull. He said he had "had a desire to move north for a considerable time", which makes one wonder why he recently signed a new five-year contract.
One player unperturbed by the prospect of homesickness is Andrea Silenzi, who yesterday agreed to swap Turin for Nottingham. The 29-year-old Torino striker has agreed terms with Frank Clark, the Nottingham Forest manager. Clark will fly to Italy to finalise a pounds 2m deal on Monday.
Another foreign player, Marc Degryse of Belgium, has completed his pounds 1.5m move to Sheffield Wednesday from Anderlecht. He was joined at Hillsbrough yesterday by Mark Pembridge, who has moved from Derby for pounds 900,000.
One man with almost enough players to stage his own tournament is Barry Fry, the Birmingham City manager, who yesterday added two more players to his swollen squad. Steve Castle of Plymouth and John Bowen of Swansea are the latest recruits; Castle for pounds 225,000 and Bowen for pounds 275,000 plus pounds 75,000 related to appearances.
Fry said the signings would create more competition for places. Given that his squad now numbers 43, most will be competing to simply gain a place on the team coach, let alone the team.
n Tranmere teenager Jamie Hughes was yesterday given a suspended two- year ban by the Football Association after testing positive for amphetamines in April. Hughes has always protested his innocence, claiming his drink was spiked on a night out, but he was found guilty on charges of disrepute and of having a prohibited substance found in his sample. However, taking his age - 17 - into account, the FA decided to suspend the ban.
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