An AISA evening with Alan Smith & Paddy Barclay


One of the benefits of being a membership of AISA is the handful of events they organize each year. This one was really interesting, a chance to meet Alan Smith and the renowned sports journalist, Patrick Barclay and be entertained by Tom Watt (ex Eastenders’ ‘Lofty’ and full time Arsenal fan).

The event took place in Great Portland Street, downstairs in an office building. I arrived early having been working at the British Library just up the road so was able to get a seat nearish the front. It was pretty busy but the impressive array of free cakes meant the mood was good, and the punters happy. Ostensibly Paddy was there to promote his biography of Herbert Chapman  but actually he talked little about Chapman and instead we had an excellent Q&A led by Tom.

Tom started us off with the story of his day; he was in a tiptop mood because in the morning he had interviewed Mesut Özil (who he described as a ‘top bloke’) and then was commissioned to write 1,500 words on the subject of ‘what has gone wrong at Manchester United?’ Nice work if you can get it eh?


Some of the evening was about reminiscing – especially when Smudger was asked questions about his career. Did he really get a touch at Anfield in ’89 (yes, of course he did), did he intend his goal against Parma (no, he just reacted quickly). Famously he was only booked once, the in the 1993 cup final for ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ – he kicked the ball the away – and he has the letter the FA sent him (all players get one) framed on his wall. Smith didn’t get booked because he’s a nice bloke, was never in the ref’s face and hardly ever tackled (by his own admission) and Barclay compared him to Gilberto who made loads of fouls but smiled his way through games, and so rarely went into the official’s notebook.

Both guests agreed Arsenal could win the league this season but that March was probably going to be the deciding factor. If we are still top or in the mix at the beginning of April, who knows? Transfers weren’t really discussed but Smith didn’t see much happening while Barclay said we should sign Seamus Coleman from Everton (in the summer) as he is the perfect replacement for Sagna.

On the subject of transfers they discussed Arsenal’s future which both think it is bright. The signing of Özil was crucial Barclay argued, now we can sign other top players. We tried to sign Benezema in the summer but now we could get him, because players like that will want to play alongside the German magician. We also have the funds and signing a £40m player every year is not a pipedream. This is a real vindication of le Boss and the board – they are doing what they said they would do.

But the squad is deeper than some would think and it is young. Barclay noted that only the BFG, Arteta and Sagna are ageing, the rest are still to reach their peak. In Wilshere we have a ready-made replacement for Arteta (and Barclay wishes we would play him deep not as an attacking midfielder). He also reckons Per could play till he is 40 (‘after all he has no pace to lose!’), so overall the best is yet to come from this team. We can compete with the oilers if FFP is enforced.

By contrast they both saw the Mancs as having trouble if they fail to finish in the CL places. Neither reckoned they would win the Champions League (Bayern and Barca are too good – although Smudge fancies Citeh to beat them) and so are staring a nightmare scenario in the face. Barclay told us that in consequence of missing out on the CL United would have to pay 25% more in transfers (wages in particular) to attract players in the summer. Arsenal however, will find it easier to bring stars in. I suppose this again puts Arsenal’s achievements (of a top four finish in consistent seasons) into perspective for those 5,6, 7, 8, 9 years without a trophy moaners. By staying in touch we stay able to compete.

There was an interesting discussion about George Graham. Smith reckoned he hasn’t been given the credit he deserves for turning the club’s fortune’s around. We were ‘in a mess’ was the verdict of the panel and GG changed all that. George improved standards, made everyone wear blazers (even once on a trip to Oz and on the beach!) and reminded the players of who they were and who they represented. He was an Arsenal man, as they say.

Towards the end GG lost it and that was when the allegations of bungs was hanging over him. On that Barclay was asked whether, given the close links between George and Sir Alex Ferguson, there was any suggestion that others could have been charged or investigated by the FA? Paddy tried to dodge this one, to much laughter. He did say that if the net had caught SAF ‘it would have been a wonderful thing’!

Interestingly Barclay then argued that football is more corrupt now, but that corruption has been made legal. If agents were not conducting transfers seats at arsenal would be £5-10 cheaper, for example. Too much of our money is being taken out of the game to fill greedy pockets. But his final aside on the issue of bungs was to say that SAF’s sensitivity to the BBC as regards the matter of his son tells us all we need to know. Interestingly both men agreed that the current loan system was seriously flawed, you shouldn’t be able to loan between clubs in the same league.

I asked a question about referees – have standards fallen and are there too few of them to choose from? They didn’t answer this head on but agreed refs were getting lots of things wrong and that this was worse than it had been. Barclay agreed with me that this might have something to do with the pace of the game and said we need to give the 4th official (otherwise a waste of space in his view) a TV (‘a telly’ he said) and allow him to properly help the ref. We don’t need goal line technology if we have a telly, you can see Lampard’s goal was in or that Tiote’s goal (against Citeh) should have stood.

Smith complained it would slow down games but Barclay disagreed; take the incident last season when Rooney elbowed James McCarthy at Wigan. Paddy gave a very amusing description of Clattenberg dancing backwoods to waste 5 minutes talking to his linesman only to then make the wrong decision. The 4th official could have radioed the ref and told him to send the United player off – saving several minutes of game time and reaching the right verdict. I must say, I’m with Paddy on this one; bring in TV and expose cheating players and corrupt referees.

Finally, one last point from early in the event. Barclay was asked about Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger and how they would get on. They would be kindred spirits Paddy said and told us of how, when he had heard Wenger was being appointed, he rang him up at Nagoya. Wenger was kind enough to talk to him (and this seems to be reflected in Barclay’s positive attitude towards le Boss, something not all journalists have) and he asked Wenger what he knew about Chapman. Arsene then trotted off the great man’s achievements, he clearly knew who HC was and therefore what taking over at The Arsenal meant. Like Chapman, like Graham, and so many others, Arsene Wenger is an ‘Arsenal man’.

The Q&A lasted for about an hour and a half, it was enlightening and the two men stayed behind to chat individually to AISA members and to sign autographs and Paddy’s book. I spoke to Smith afterwards about a charity that matters to me and he listened and shook my hand. I went home buzzing, almost like a win at the Ems. If you fancy being a part of events like this then join AISA and join in.


Footnote: Untold has its copy of the new Barclay book on Chapman and we’ll be reviewing it anon.





36 Replies to “An AISA evening with Alan Smith & Paddy Barclay”

  1. I don’t wish to be off subject on the first post however I thought I would share this.
    I have on the net Talk Sport commentary of Manure v Sunderland five minutes into the game Rooney merits a yellow card for a bad challenge (I didn’t catch the name of the Sunderland player as I am not listing too attentively.) If the plan goes according script it wont belong before Roony assists a goal or scores!

  2. My apologies for my last comment, it seems I was wrong in every aspect. My apologies to all.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. My opinion of Smith has hitherto been that he is another Stewart Robson type, only too happy to twist the knife and unable to understand the bigger picture re the stadium move and the necessary financial restrictions this placed on player purchases. I’d be happy if he returned to the fold.

  4. Congrats to our old boy Manone for taking Sunderland to league cup final. ManU were sh!t and Manone was pretty great.

  5. Must have been an interesting event. Have always had a lot of time for paddy B, and it seems alan smith, a man who has done great things for the club has recently returned to the fold, judging by recent articles and interviews I have read and heard from him.
    How has fergie got away with so much….and does karma exist?

  6. Wao! Manure v sunderland game was right out of the league cup drama books. Both teams went back and forth from hope to despair and back to hope then despair…almost unbelievable turn of events. Glad to see Manone (a branch of Arsenal) stricking the last dagger in manure hopeless heart. So how else more can it go wrong with manure? You need to see Sir rednose face side by side moyes clueless stunned face.

  7. Hi Blacksheep. I was there too. I remember your question about referees and I was quite excited waiting for an answer but you’re right, they didn’t really take the question up at all. I’d tabled a question about referees but they didn’t ask it and in the end nor did I. Now I wish I had.

    You give a very good account of the meeting which was very interesting and enjoyable. However, do you remember Alan Smith said he was writing an article about why Arsenal can win the league? It was in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph and it was not good, half-hearted, dragging up negative stuff about the recent past. After his positive statements at the meeting, I was very disappointed. It seems he says one thing for the fans and another in his job as a journalist. The other two journalists who wrote about Chelsea and Manchester City were far more positive about those teams. You wouldn’t have thought from the articles that it was Arsenal who were actually at the top of the premiership.

    So that was a disappointing follow up to an enjoyable event.

  8. Pat,

    Just like you, I did not buy the Alan Smith in this article i.e. the one from the meeting. I have heard him far too many times being unnecessarily negative about the club that he is supposed to be representing (at least that’s why he got the gig, I believe). He is a 2 faced person. I dislike those even more than the regular haters.

    So, after Arsenal has led the league for 17 out of 22 games he finally wrote a half-hearted crap about why we can win the league? Fuck him. This know-nothing (yours truly) wrote such before a ball was even kicked. And I am neither an Arsenal legend nor a paid pundit.

    Most of these guys are grossly over-rated. Their opinions ain’t worth shit.

  9. Agreed Bootoomee, Smith is not to be trusted. His constant snidey negativity whilst commentating on Arsenal matches is irritating and boring. At least Robson says what he means with no punches pulled and you know exactly where he stands.

  10. Why is there so much of negativity from past Arsenal players ? Do they feel hard done by , by the club or AW ?
    Don’t they stop to think that the other pundits support their old clubs and wish well for them , and find it amusing that our ex-lot only have poor things to parrot ?
    Hope Arsenal pay them all back with a good season and put them in their places – the gutter !

  11. @Brickfields Gunners

    I have a theory about negativity towards the club and Arsene Wenger from these ex players. I believe that there are in fact 2 Arsenal Football Clubs: the first one was the club before Wenger took over; and the second one is the modern AFC that our current manager has created. A lot of the ex-players in the media (Alan Smith, Stewart Robson, Lee Dixon, Ian Wright etc) belong in the first category, having been brought up in a more ‘British’ environment, where football is about ‘getting stuck in’, drinking culture, and (at best) a suspicion of all things ‘foreign’ and innovative and (at worst) a prejudice that borders on racism.

    This attitude explains the lack of understanding of modern Arsenal and its more continental and international approach to fitness, diet, how to play the game, tactics, analysis and even the business side of the game, and when people don’t understand how something works, what do they usually do? They criticise it, deride it and even abuse it.

    As someone who is involved in football myself in terms of coaching and development, we are actually taught that a lot of Arsene Wenger’s methods are right, and that a lot of the British methods are way past their sell-by date; a lot of the ex players don’t learn about coaching the game so all they express is what they have been taught and brought up on in their playing days, and this allied to the ignorance mentioned earlier means hostility towards AW and the modern club

  12. Brickfields Gunners,

    It is only the English ex-players (apart from Ray Parlour). The non-English ex-Gunners are always positive about the club. Even the ones that the AAA chased away.

  13. @ Vikrant Dodra – I get your ‘in the good ole’ days view of these ex-players , but having seen such a great transformation of the club , can’t they simply acknowledge that we HAVE progressed tremendously .
    Anyone with an iota of intelligence can appreciate the great strides taken so far and the unlimited potential that awaits for the future .Is this beyond them ?
    Are they being paid to rubbish the club ? As many have observed here , they all seem to be reading from a set script .
    I’ll love to see them all in a dole queue ! They’d probably get the forms all wrong !
    Roll up ! Roll up ! See your fallen stars as you’ve never seen them before – humbled !

  14. @Bootoomee

    I was at the meeting as well. Smith said that he had been TOLD to write the article about why he thought Arsenal could win the league. It was obvious that it went totally against his own views.

    It’s obvious he doesn’t believe that it is possible and seems to struggle to find anything positive about the club as it is.

    On the plus side, he was very hospitable.

  15. Really surprised at the negative comments about Alan Smith. In my view he’s an excellent independent journalist, not a bullshitter like so many ex-players turned media people. He clearly continues to support the Club where he was so successful and he was and is supportive of Arsenal’s short-term and long-term development. If you want propaganda go to club websites; if you want a decent journalist and Arsenal-man through and through then Alan is always worth listening to. He was great on Monday, truthful and open.

  16. Great, great article Blacksheep.

    I found this very, very interesting, informative and well written. I first read the article in the middle of last night, and at that time I was wondering about Alan Smith’s contribution. There are now comments above mine where folks give their opinion of Master Smith, and they correlate with my own.

    It really seems to me that as an ex-Ars, you must follow the anti Arsenal line. I’ve never seen ex-Ars smile when describing or commentating on their former clubs’ success. It’s as though they know they’d no longer have a lucrative job. So, Smiffy tries to look and sound ‘oh so professional’ and unbiased, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

    I like Patrick Barclay because he was the only plundit I saw on British TV who described Shawcross’s assault – as I viewed it. And that was on Sky’s Sunday Supplement! I believe he still has a job with them (though I don’t actually know for sure). I’m impressed he didn’t merely come to promote his book, and glad he touched upon current corruption, too.

    Great article. More please.

  17. Andy Kelly,

    Thanks for providing that context. So, the ass-hat was prodded to write the piece? Little wonder it was still filled with his negative opinions!

    I’m little impressed by his hospitability. He is a mild-mannered weasel. I’m not one bit surprised that he couldn’t talk his usual bollocks in the presence of Arsenal faithfuls.

  18. I agree Rupert, very nice report. Its a couple of the negative comments in response that are bizarre. One person claims that no ex-Arsenal players smile when commenting on Arsenal success. Sir, you are mad! Here’s an (incomplete) list off the top of my head of ex-Arsenal players that I’ve seen smiling in interviews on Sky, BBC etc when Arsenal have done well. Martin Keown, Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Alan Smith, Paul Merson, Ray Parlour, Alan Smith, Frank McLintock, Charlie George, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp. As far as I can see most ex-Arsenal players have a real affection for the Club and are pleased when we do well.

  19. First time of reading these comments and may well be the last. Just who is this coarse arrogant foul mouthed BOOTOOME? He doesn’t seem to get the irony of his comments. Alan Smith is now a journalist and a good one. Does he not have the right to express his opinion but still be a loyal gooner. It was an excellent informative evening and does not warrant the cheap jibes from I suspect someone who couldn’t write a sensible piece if he tried. At least Paul gives a balanced view.

  20. David Gaitt,

    Who the hell are you and why are you so threatened by ONE person’s comment from multitude of others? Say why you disagree with me and I’ll respond to your complaint.

    You call Alan Smith a journalist and I laugh: ah ah ah ah ah! I think you are confused my prudish friend. Not every person you see talking on TV or writing stuff in newspaper is a journalist. Patrick Barclay is a journalist. Alan Smith is a retired footballer who gets to talk on TV and publish his thoughts in newspaper because he played for Arsenal. When he appears on TV, you always see the caption under his name: Ex-Arsenal player (or something to that effect). When Henry Winter or Patrick Barclay appear on TV, you see the word “Journalist” under their names.

    If you are visiting a forum for the first time, it will be rash on your part to jump to conclusion based on one thread. Unless of course, you are an old nemesis who has created a new username to attack. Your comment sounds very much like one voyeur that used to tango with me.

    Finally, my foul mouth is none of your business, prude. Go play PC police elsewhere.

  21. Bootoomee

    Just read your last comments. You are right about’ex-Arsenal player’ always appearing when these people speak and that is a large part of the problem. People then give their views greater credibility than they deserve and their negativity spreads. Ironically, there are other Telegraph journalists – not ex-Arsenal players – who write more positively, and in a more balanced way, about Arsenal than Alan Smith does.

    I agree with people’s positive remarks about Patrick Barclay. He wrote a great, hard-hitting article after the game against Manchester United that ended our 49 game unbeaten run.

  22. Pat,

    But for the fact that he played for Arsenal, I doubt any media outfit would have given Alan Smith any kind of platform to talk. In other word, he is getting paid because of his past relationship with Arsenal. Unlike Ian Wright who has a bubbly personality, Smith is just plain boring and bland. The least that the parasitic weasel could do is at least be loyal to the club. While negativity may be annoying, we can at least understand it when the club is not doing well. Why the continuous whining when the club has been exceeding all expectations (ironically set by people like Smith) all season?

    I love Patrick Barclay. For a guy who has no prior relationship with Arsenal (to the best of my knowledge), he has always been fair to the club.

  23. Mr, Mrs or whoever Bootoome I think your replies make my case very nicely thank you. Who am I? I am gooner and have been for 60 plus years and don’t for a minute think I am threatened by you even though you don’t use your real name. Who are you?
    I am certainly far from being a prude but like to think that I consider other peoples views and repect their right to make them just as you have the right to make yours but making them so aggressively and crudely means they lose any credibility. Your name calling of people who disagree with you is unnecessary and to me says you have no real case and how after reading your comments can you be a judge who and who isn’t a journalist.
    I believe the tone of your writing and language tells me all about who you are and I most certainly would not have been a previous nemesis, one involvement is one too many thanks so wish you well but not for me thanks.

  24. The fact that Rupert Cook thought the article well balanced simply validates most other folk on here’s opinion of Smith as being a snake in the grass.

  25. Mr David Gaitt,

    First of all, I don’t give a damn about your age or how long you’ve been supporting Arsenal. I have no clue about your identity, so I don’t know and I don’t care that you are using your real name to post comments online.

    My “who the hell are you” question is rhetorical but considering that you have no idea what makes a person a journalist, I have to let that go. You seem to have limited understanding of the language. A journalist is a trained professional writer in the service of a news/media organisation. A pundit (which I think is the word you meant) can be ANYBODY with even tangential knowledge or experience of the issue in discussion. The media give such people, especially retired footballer, such roles because of rubes like you who buy their every word as gospel. As Pat stated above, that is why Adam Smith’s commenting as “ex-Arsenal player” is of consequence.

    Adam Smith is a 2 faced weasel. Fuck him and fuck his opinion on Arsenal.

    If you don’t agree with my reasoning on any issue, I’m happy to engage you in a debate but I refuse to get lectures from anyone about my “foul mouth”. As I told you before, it’s none of your business. You don’t like it, just scroll past it.


  26. Wow.
    I’m extra fascinated by this mini debate on Alan Smith.

    I suppose firstly I should admit that I could be more careful with my words.
    I wrote “I’ve never seen ex-Ars smile when describing or commentating on their former clubs’ success. ”

    I’ll concede that’s a bit too general. Perhaps I should talk of the ‘reluctant and miserable countenance’ dressed up as ‘fair and impartial’ reporting, when Smiffy and many other ex-Ars players speak? That’s what I see and feel. I accept that some others won’t see it that way. After all, we’ve all been listening to an anti Arsenal diatribe for Years. And it continues.
    On and on….

    “He clearly continues to support the Club where he was so successful and he was and is supportive of Arsenal’s short-term and long-term development.”, wrote Paul. I’m entirely unaware of this. Do enlighten me, please. You know, how is he supporting development? Please link to something he has written that shows these things. (You could be so right. I haven’t read anything by Smiffy for ages, cos all the previous stuff I read from him contained multiple caveats of doom mongering. My opinion, of course).

    Paul wrote “As far as I can see most ex-Arsenal players have a real affection for the Club and are pleased when we do well.”

    Lol. I presume you’re including players from Arsenals long history, and that you’re not talking about the current plundits, right?

    I maintain that for ex Arsenal players to have the biggest jobs in the plunditocrasy, they need to be Anti Arsenal. There are a few smaller gigs for the truly happy and supporting exs: Winterburn and Parlour come to mind. Paul Davis, who recently appeared on a podcast, doesn’t seem to get a job at all, though i could be wrong on that one.

    Bootoome, Pat and Mick: Thanks.

  27. Paul, from your list….

    Fair or even biased towards Arsenal – Keown, Winterburn, Merson (still loves Arsenal but can be easily led by those around him to be negative), Parlour, McClintock, George, Henry, Bergkamp.

    Always negative and tow the Media line – Wright, Dixon, Smith (either of your mentions!) and can also add Stewart Robson, David O’Leary, Niall Quinn & Brian Marwood to this list.

  28. Alan Smith is now a journalist. He gives his views honestly. If he thinks Arsenal wont win the league he is entitled to say so. Much of what I have seen from him is well thought through and he justifies his own views and opinions. Thats not to say I agree with all of them. From a professional point of view and just because he used to play for Arsenal doesn’t mean that he should alter his views. My criticism of him is that he is often quite bland and tends to go with the consensus view.

    Somebody like Charlie Nicholas is plainly for Celtic and Arsenal. He makes no bones about it and is enthusiastic about both clubs. I enjoy that but even he is critical of the club at times. Not all have to be like him.

    Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn are all generally supportive in their views though at times they do critique the club as well. Stewart Robson on the other hand…… well…. !”£$%^&*()))***&^%$

  29. I was at the event and it was my question about how the Runne hague link between GG and AF should have been investigated further. Although Patrick wouldn’t answer directly for fear of libel he did suggest those who needed their mind made up should look at AF son and the BBC ban. Give tom his credit at the end of paddys answer he did re-ask the question and suggested AF guilt.
    On the Alan smith issue, he several times spoke about his association with the club as opposed to his love for the club and reminded everyone he is an Aston villa supporter. I think we need to bear that in mind he is just an ex-player and not an ARSENAL man however interesting his insight may be.

  30. Bootoome.
    Thank-you. I clearly have hit the right spot which gives me great satisfaction. Go back and read all your diatribes again. I certainly have a limited understanding of your language. Two teachings from my own training for writing articles . 1. If you have nothing nice or constructive to say, don’t say it. 2. If you do have to say it and you resort to foul and abusive language you have lost your argument. (Who the hell is Adam Smith anyway. Thought he brewed ale)

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