If anyone knows what life is like in the fast lane it is Alan Smith.
On the pitch he pushes the boundaries, as a youngster he saw a rapid rise to fame as a fresh-faced 18 year-old in a Leeds side which stormed Europe and he has 19 England caps to his name. He also knows how great highs can be destroyed by the ultimate lows and how to fight back in times of adversity.
Things could have been very different for Smith though, as an eight year old growing up in West Yorkshire he was obsessed with bikes of all forms and by the age of nine he was a national BMX champion. Football was something he had tried and told his parents he never wanted to play again, but his brother’s keenness persuaded him to try out for Rothwell Juniors and 10 years later he was making a name for himself in the Premier League with his beloved Leeds United.
“My life has never evolved around football,” Smith told mkdons.com, “and because of that I still love it so much. Growing up I wanted to ride motorbikes, I raced BMX as a kid so it’s strange that I always wanted to focus on a different sport but I happened to be good at football. When I finish football I am still looking forward to racing bikes so I keep a keen eye on that world.”
These days Smith’s passion for bikes burns brighter than ever, he still takes trips to motocross meetings across the UK and remains enthused by the toughest form of motor racing, MotoGP.
“I have always enjoyed a massive variation of sports, like MotoGP. I will be keeping a keen eye on that no matter where I am in the world.
“I think I like MotoGP so much because it’s an unfulfilled ambition and it’s a complete switch-off from football. You probably wouldn’t think that people who like football would like that type of sport, but my dad used to race motocross, a lot of my friends race bikes and it is a northern sport! It’s one of those things where you either love it or you hate it and I love it.
“I suppose it sums me up, I think I play football like riding a bike – I always push it to the limit! I always try my best in whatever I do. I think motorbike riders are incredible athletes; they put themselves through a lot more than we do.
“The race with broken legs, broken backs, you name it they’ve had it but they’ll still compete. Sometimes it amazes you because they crash at 200mph and race a week later. Heroes of mine were all motocross and motorbike riders rather than footballers. I only got into football when I played it at school; I fell into it whereas I love the bikes.”
While Smith himself admits people may be surprised by his interest in two wheels, he believes there is method behind the madness in looking up to a fellow sportsman.
“I have heroes – Jorge Lorenzo is my favourite. I have always looked at different sporting people as the ones who I idolise. If you look at people in different sports they always revert to the same stuff, it’s always mindset, mind over matter, the commitment and the passion.”