Former Manchester United forward Alan Smith once revealed he struggles to walk over 16 years after a free-kick from John Arne Riise broke his leg.
Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle during an FA Cup clash with Liverpool back in January 2006 after blocking Riise’s shot.
Sir Alex Ferguson called the injury one of the ‘worst he had ever seen’ and a number of Smith’s teammates were distressed. Ruud van Nistelrooy put his head in his hands and walked away while Cristiano Ronaldo was visibly emotional.
The ex-England international had 10 pins inserted into his ankle and made his return to first-team action seven months later.
Smith, being held by Gary Neville, immediately after the leg break. (Image Credit: Alamy)He continued playing until 2018 and in an interview with the Daily Mirror from that year, Smith admitted he’s still feeling the effects years later.
“I knew with the injury it would be touch and go whether I could carry on playing – the surgeon said that,” Smith explained.
“It would have been easier to walk away and people remember you as a top Premier League player.
“But I didn’t want that, because I loved playing football. Your love of it makes you go through the pain barrier.
“Most of people I have played with, and managers, have respected me for staying in football when it would have been easy to walk away.
“But I dropped down to the Championship, dropped down to League One and dropped down to League Two.
“Loads of people would say to me, ‘Why I am bothering?’ Whether I was earning £500-a-week or nothing, if people felt I could still contributed I wanted to keep playing.”
Smith in action against Tottenham Hotspur. (Image Credit: Alamy)Smith swapped Old Trafford for St. James’ Park in 2007 and sealed a move to Newcastle United, before dropping down to League One with MK Dons in 2012.
By this point, he’d moved into a defensive midfield role and that’s where he played as a player-coach for Notts County between 2014 and 2018 too.
The 41-year-old added: “The injury made me a better person after doing so well so young.
“I learnt at any time, football can be over. I am lucky through sheer grit and determination I carried on playing.
“The good people I met lower down the leagues probably drove me on to stay in football longer. But by the end, the day-to-day training was doing more harm than good.
“I couldn’t compete at a level I felt I could easily before. I get out of bed and can’t walk properly, my ankle is stiff all the time.
Smith during his time at Notts County. (Image Credit: Alamy)”I went for a run in the summer and managed to do a couple of miles but stopped and started walking because my ankle was hurting. I went back last month and the surgeon said, ‘I don’t want you doing any straight-line running’, just because it will 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. I have no regrets, for me I see retiring early being the easy option.”
Smith made 93 appearances for United and scored 12 goals, but his only goal after the leg break came against Roma in the Champions League.