ALAN Smith joining MK Dons is the greatest signing in the club’s history, according to his new manager.
Karl Robinson has pulled off arguably the most shocking transfer of the January window so far by landing the Premier League ace from Newcastle on loan until the end of the season.
The deal for the 31-year-old, confirmed on Sunday, has raised more than a few eyebrows nationwide as the former England international agreed to drop two divisions to join Dons.
“I’d say it was for obvious reasons,” said Robinson. “We brought Didi Hamann in last year, but he hadn’t kicked a ball in two years.
“Alan’s still young, and he hasn’t come here to see out the last days of his career – he still has seven or eight years left. He’s hungry for success, and that’s a testament to him, coming to League 1.”
Smith has played just six minutes of football for Newcastle this season, finding himself playing in reserve games in a bid to maintain his fitness.
But despite offers for his services from clubs in the Championship, Smith preferred a move to stadium:mk.
“I had offers to play higher but I never really took any of them on board,” Smith said at his press conference unveiling on Monday. “I always knew the style of football played here and the manager’s philosophy.
“This club has a great future ahead of it and I can help them on the way and become part of it’s history.
“I hope this shows to people that footballers in my position just want to play. I do have to thank Alan Pardew for giving me the opportunity to come here and play. I’m fit, I just have to get in the team!
“You can take a sideways step in the Premier League, or go to the Championship or come to League 1 to a club that is going places. You just have to look at Southampton who got promoted, Brighton as well, and Swansea have gone a step further playing football the right way.
“I’ve seen MK Dons play a few times this season, and I know a few players who have played here and they’re very impressed with the way Karl’s team is set up and play.
“I’d like to say thank you to Newcastle for letting me come to a club that is building for the future. I’m excited. It was an easy decision to make. I’ve not really played for Newcastle and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Smith’s career, though blighted with injury in recent years, is a glittering one. Having reached the Champions League semi-finals with Leeds United in 2001, he moved to Manchester United for £7 million in 2004.
Preferred by Sir Alex Ferguson to play in the centre of midfield, he won the Premier League and Carling Cup in his time at Old Trafford, but suffered an horrendous injury in 2006 when he broke his leg and dislocated his ankle, ruling him out for nearly a year. He struggled to get back in the United side and secured a move to Newcastle in 2007.
But with his chances at St James’ Park limited this season, he makes the six-month switch to stadium:mk and will be eligible for the play-offs should he be required. He will wear the number 11 shirt vacated by Angelo Balanta.
And while many believe the player to be ‘injury prone, Smith maintains that he has been fit and ready to play for 18 months.
“A lot is made of it,” he said. “Injuries are psychological and mental. In hindsight, I think missing playing football gives you that hunger to come back.
“When you’re a kid, it’s all you want to do, you don’t do it because of the lifestyle, success or fame, but it’s because it’s what you want to do.
And that’s the message this club gives out – play football like we’re kids, with confidence in the manager who has that philosophy.
“I’ve trained every day this season. But football is about playing. My last game was before Christmas against Wigan in a reserve game. I was sat at Newcastle for five months asking myself ‘what am I doing?’
“I’ve played a number of positions, I know what the team needs to succeed. I think a little bit of experience at the right times could get us over that line.”
And with promotion the goal, Smith hinted that a longer term deal could be in place if Dons reach the Championship.
“I don’t see why not. Football is funny, you get a feeling about a place. I know the manager and chairman have a great relationship.
“When my agent and I came here last Monday, we both got that feeling as well. Fingers crossed, if we get promotion, something longer term can happen.”
Robinson added that Smith is the perfect addition to his squad and that his enthusiasm is matched by his new team-mates.
He said: “His hunger and willingness to succeed is scary. He’s a leader. It’s great to have him here.
“We’ve got a very unique crop of lads here who love playing football. We’ve created an environment where the players come in a with smiles on their faces. He’s a perfect fit.
“The season and success aren’t judged over the short term. It will be determined by the next 20 games we play, it just so happens that we’ve got Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Charlton coming up.”
While Smith will prove to be the marquee signing Robinson promised, the manager said he was still working hard to bring players in before Tuesday’s transfer window deadline.
“We’re still trying to do deals, but there hasn’t been much movement at all. We will be working hard trying to make things happen,” he said.
Smith looks set to go straight into the squad for Tuesday’s vital clash with promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday at stadium:mk. Dons will be without midfielder Darren Potter (illness) and the suspended Mathias Doumbe.