Tag Archives: boot

Smudge – A Striking Dream

Alan Martin Smith earned his way into Gooner folklore in more ways than one.

You think of smudge, you inevitably think of the Miracle of 89, his goal at Anfield early in the second half that provided the platform for the most iconic moment in English football at the time.

However, the man who was the perfect foil for any striker was much more than this halcyon moment in Gunners history.

Smith won two Golden Boots in his time in an Arsenal shirt – the top scorer in the top league in England not once but twice. Some achievement.


Two titles. Three cups, including his wonderful goal against Parma in the Cup Winners Cup Final in 1994 won us a European title that we had no right to win.

Smith was an expert in the opposition box. He obviously knew where the goal was – he was our top scorer for four consecutive seasons – but he possessed an almost peerless ability in the air. Smith was tall but not so much that he towered above those who battled him. No, the reason Smith invariably won most aerial duels was down to intelligence – and a fantastic leap.

Smudge always jumped at the right time, and it meant he ousted his marker more often than not. How many times did the striker flick on a lofted ball from Lukic or Seaman and the ball found his striking partner or a late runner in midfield such as Rocky, Merson or Thomas?

That brings us to his real skill. One that is often overlooked. Smith created so much for his teammates with his aerial threat. He grabbed his fair share of headed goals, but Smith gave so much more, and that was thanks to his first touch.

On countless occasions, Smith received a ball launched long and high, and he immediately brought the ball to heel with his feet or chest. If the ball was destined for his head, the ball mystically found a teammate. This meant that not only did Smith’s ball control need to be faultless, but he also had to know where his team mates were at all times. His awareness bordered on telepathy at times.

We had a striker that gave us perfect service for eight years. He fitted us perfectly and even when his pace – or lack of – became evident later on – because his first touch and his awareness didn’t need a lightning burst toward goal – he was incredibly useful throughout his time with us, not just in the earlier years.

Smith learned and honed his trade at Leicester, with a certain Mr Lineker at the club too. There were certain similarities between the two – both possessed a knack at arriving at the right time in the box – but it was their playing personalities that matched up neatly. Both had a huge appetite, but didn’t let it consume them with red mist. Lineker and Smith both flew under the radar with referees – Smith was booked once in his entire career, Lineker escaped any bookings from the match official.

That’s quite an incredible statistic, but it may paint a picture of a placid player who cared little for the team. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Smith was instrumental in our team from the moment he arrived in 1987. He left everything on the pitch and his goals, assists and keeping defenders busy was a cornerstone of our trophy success in 89, 91, 93 and 94.

Smith is one of our finest strikers in our illustrious history. A player who was selfless and never once gave us less than his best.

A player who is encased in amber for helping to bring us the best memories.

Thank you Smudge.

​The Ever-Changing Football Boot

One of the current bones of contention within football as a global sport is that it trails behind other sports in regards to technology.

With rugby, tennis, cricket and other high-profile entertainment, they all currently grasp whatever high-end innovations that are to hand in order to benefit the sport and ensure that justice plays just as big a part in events as the entertainment itself.

Football though, is just about coming to terms with goalline technology, never mind utilising video references to see that huge decisions are called correctly. With the influx of exorbitant money comes the underlined necessity for these decisions to be infallible. The ramifications can be devastating otherwise.

Football is archaic in its approach, but in other areas, it is way ahead of the curve. Take the once humble football boot.

From its humble beginnings as merely an accessory worn to ensure toes were not broken when kicking the swollen and rigid leather ball, now they are alien in comparison to their dated siblings.

The never ending quest to find the sweetest of spots to strike the ball has led to some crazy calls and designs, and now to even name them ‘boots’ seems incongruent. They seem to resemble an elvish slipper, crafted from an angel’s sigh and offering zero protection whatsoever in order to maximise the ability of the player.

Where is the middle ground? Well, The Hot Stepanovs does not rest until answers are found. I delved deep and have found a man who has shunned the current trend for gaudy footwear made entirely from the skin of a butterfly. 

Yet he has also claimed it is lightweight and allows for skills, tricks and flicks to be just as optimal as ever.

Where is this heaven-sent boot? I spoke to boot designer Scott Michaels to get the info.

Hi Scott. First thing’s first. Your path did not exactly lead to designing football boots! How did you find yourself up to this point?

Scott – When I was fifteen, i used to play football five times a week. I remember all the cool brands of football boots the Premier League footballers were wearing at the time. I have always followed the different styles and brands closely. Now looking into the industry, I see most of these stylish independent boots have disappeared from the professional market.

From 18 years old, I ran my own hairdressing salon for ten years, I then started up a hairstyling brand called Hairbond. Hairbond is currently the largest British hairstyling brand in the World with over £20m retail value sold since we launched in 2010.

Through Hairbond consumer marketing, I used my passion for professional football which got me back involved in the game again and reignited my passion. With top Premier League players regularly promoting our products through social media it gave me the opportunity to create Hairbond photo shoots with Simon Mignolet and James Anderson as brand ambassadors.

What makes your boot so special?

Scott –  Our Heirship Seventeen is a premium heritage concept, built with new age technology, and getting the right product material was the most important part.

I have been working with a team comprised of sport scientists and professional footballers to design the boot.

We have sampled hundreds of materials from extremely lightweight carbon fibre (which gets damaged very easily), to old school Kangaroo leather (which is in my opinion unethical).  

The chosen material is Japanese Super Micro Fibre. This state of the art synthetic is – in my opinion – the best in the world for high performance professional football boots.

It’s more durable than premium leather and moulds better to the foot.  Our first release – the Heirship Seventeen – is also very lightweight when compared to alternatives and we have embossed ‘texture vents’ to enable a greater feel of the ball.

There will be a mixed stud boot for soft ground, and an Astro sole version, for artificial pitches launching this summer in a classic black as well as a Limited Edition white/gold edition. We are also planning a hard ground bladed technology release in both colours and a children’s edition later on in the year.

Your area of expertise seems to be marketing. How do you plan to ensure your wares reach the relevant parties – the footballers who will give your boot the platform it needs?

Scott – We already have over 100 professional players globally desperately waiting to try the boots and unlike most brands in the game we are not paying any players to wear the boots.

For professional football players, football boots are more than just a boot, they are the tool of their trade. We want footballers to choose our boots and the durability, comfort and performance of the need to be prioritised.

How much research went into making sure your offerings were the best they could be?

Scott – I have spent the last 12 months researching the very best global manufacturers and sourcing materials to make the boots innovative. All prototype samples were then sent out to a dozen active professionals to test through the rigors of training. I then worked with a premium shoe designer in Italy and the first boot Heirship Seventeen was born. We are launching them in 1 colour ways – classic black and a Matchmakers limited edition white and gold edition –  to celebrate the brands launch in 2017.

Do you think that your competitors boots are a factor in the frequency of injuries on the pitch? Was it a factor in the manufacture of yours?

Scott – Yes, injury prevention was something we have had to consider whilst designing the boots. I also believe a boot that provides more support is vital but without too much weight. Some players are playing 50 games a season and are running 12k per game. This is where our focus is regarding performance as we look at a footballers foot comfort over a marathon not a sprint. After thorough research, we believe that we have the right balance with the H17 boot which is still light weight but has the durability and comfort factor.

What is the next step for you, and what is the ultimate aim?

Scott – To position Matchmakers as the designer labelled boot brand in football. We also see Matchmakers as a premium niche alternative to mass market sports brands. I believe with the boot technology and the swagger of Matchmakers we have something different to the rest. I also think with my marketing experience dealing with the same demographic will help us in new ways to market our products. I also think our immediate success in football boots could lead us into other sports such as both codes of rugby and golf.

It will be very interesting to watch the progress of this brand, especially with the advances this boot boasts of.

Please check out stylomatchmakers.com in April for more information on this fantastic product.

Who Will Win the Golden Boot?

With just over half of the season already played out, the pecking order in the Premiership table is starting to take shape. 

The indicators for which sides are the cream rising to the surface, and which are simply floating with no purpose in the middle, are clear to see. These teams grouping near the top of the league are there through superior tactics, a stout rearguard or ample firepower. Even if they have a modest armoury, these clubs will not be sitting in the position they are in without at least some goals.

Goals are the currency on which results are earned, and every team has to pay the price to get into the VIP club – the European places. Without goals in your pocket, you will not get past security.

Chelsea, Arsenal, tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United and even Everton have contenders for the crown of top goalscorer for the season. Whomsoever of these hotshots grabs the accolade, it may just be enough to fire them above their rivals for a very esteemed league position? 

So, who is odds on for the Golden Boot? We look at English Premier Betting at William Hill for a hint at which of these strikers may just give their side an edge in the latter half of the season:

Diego Costa

The turbulent Brazilian turned Spaniard has apparently turned over a new leaf since Italian coach Antonio Conte has taken over at Chelsea. His 15 goals scored thus far have seen the best of Costa, and his efficient finishing has seen him rise to prominence in Chelsea’s rise to the top of the league. If things continue in this current vein, then Costa will be one of the leading contenders to win the top scorer award. It wouldn’t be Costa without one blot on the copybook, and his recent hiatus from the side was shrouded in mystery amidst rumours of a bust-up with the very coach who has been responsible for returning him to form. What the fallout will be from this is debateable, but Costa is sitting pretty right now. 

Alexis Sanchez

This striker from Chile is on fire. He has been on such form that defenders have no answer for his high jinx. He is currently level on goals with Costa, and has rescued his side on numerous occasions. He is also regarded in the same way by the bookies, as his odds are similar to Costa’s too. Fitness is one thing that Alexis prioritises as well as playing time and that should see him get enough games to grab the goals that keep him in contention. He is also the striker with the most assists in this list. An all-out Action Man.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The giant Swede has continued to bang in the goals after his move from Paris Saint Germain, and his aerial ability and self-belief have given United a life raft in the sea of mediocrity. Jose Mourinho has overseen a run of results which has seen them ride on the coattails of the frontrunners, but fail to make any inroads on the gap between them and the Champions League places. Zlatan has been the difference between points – and no points. He did go through a dry spell, but he is only one goal behind the top two strikers, so it obviously didn’t hamper him and his giant ego too much. 

Harry Kane

This slack-jawed poor annunciator has continued his goalscoring from the previous season, and his team are looking very dangerous. He has also missed a few weeks and is still amongst the hottest of strikers. Kane is profiting from plenty of chances crafted by Delle Alli, Christian Eriksen and their effervescent full-backs. Harry Kane is indeed the real deal and will definitely be amongst the shouts for top scorer, but right now, he is two goals behind Sanchez and Costa. Last seasons top scorer has some work to do.

Romelu Lukaku

The big Belgian has his detractors, but just like last season he is firing the goals in. The Toffees have been ridiculously inconsistent, but the one thing they have been able to rely on is Lukaku. The big man is surely on the radar of some big clubs, and has 12 goals so far. Even in his teams poorest spell he was still bagging goals, so he cannot be discounted. Last season he finished four goals behind Kane and in third place overall. Can he go two places better?

Sergio Aguero

The Argentinean is four goals behind in the stakes, but only a fool would not consider him. He has missed a large part of the season – four games alone through suspension – but he is still in contention in the face of this. He has the pedigree, but does his team? Man City are stuttering, but he will be forever amongst the goals. If his hamstrings stay healthy, then Aguero will be on the list. Maybe a bit more teamplay may benefit Aguero – he is the only striker on the list who has not registered an assist. 

There are a few others in the running. Jermain Defoe is proving age and playing for Sunderland is not doing him any harm. The 34year old has 12 goals so far. Just imagine if he was playing for a team who created just a little more. Delle Alli has eleven goals to his name as his star burns ever brighter. There is no reason why this youngster cannot continue to plunder as he has done thus far.
These are the runners and riders for the Golden Boot 2016/17.

Who is your money on?