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Alan Smith on Batsford, Coppell and Southgate

In-depth interview with renowned former manager

21 February 2024


Alan Smith on Batsford, Coppell and Southgate

In-depth interview with renowned former manager

21 February 2024

Alan Smith achieved plenty in his managerial and coaching career but there is only one place and one man that he feels kickstarted it all: Wimbledon and the late Allen Batsford.

It was in the humble surroundings of Plough Lane that Alan’s football story began, with the former Wimbledon boss immediately taking him under his wing following a tip off by one Dave Bassett.

The rest as they say is history, with Alan’s career progressing on to working with Manchester United legend Steve Coppell at Crystal Palace, as the two enjoyed great success in the other corner of South London.

Still friends to this day, the duo will soon be telling their inspiring story to all at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, with an exciting Q&A event set to take place on Thursday 21 March at 7:00pm.


Below is an interview with Alan as he discussed key parts of his career and told people what they can expect from the event itself next month.


Allen Batsford was just outstanding. I was lucky to get the job. I was with Dave Bassett on a coaching course and he told me that the Club were going to start up a youth section. Allen had an instant impact on me, so from then on I bought into it.

I always had a link to Wimbledon, when I was a schoolboy one of my teachers was the press officer for the Club. He took me to games when I was 16. I grew to know the likes of Roy Law and the great Mike Kelly, so I had a fair idea of what the history of the football club is about.



He was disciplined, organised and a fitness fanatic when it came to the players. He had a tremendous drive about him. You didn’t want to fall out with him – he was a hard man but fair. He did a great job also at Walton & Hersham when they played Brighton, who had Brian Clough in charge at the time.

I knew his background. He was without doubt the best coach I ever worked with and without him I wouldn’t have had the career that I had in football.

I was bitterly disappointed when Wimbledon got rid of him, I thought it was a bad move. I had a few words with Ron Noades about that.


All that I’d learnt under Allen Batsford was put into practice during my first role as a manager at Dulwich Hamlet. If we lost on a Saturday I’d get the players in on a Sunday. His dedication to fitness and having a regime is something I tried to replicate.


Dickie Guy comes to mind because he was such a character, he was an outstanding goalkeeper that could have easily played professional football. Dave Bassett was a natural leader, he galvanized the changing room and had a good relationship with the manager.

The whole group that were there at that time were a unit and had an identity, that’s why they had that great game against Leeds United.


Winning the Championship with Crystal Palace as manager was brilliant. Going to Wembley as Steve Coppell’s assistant and drawing 3-3 with Manchester United will always stay with me, as will beating Liverpool 4-3.

My biggest achievement though is the amount of good players we produced at Palace. Names like Gareth Southgate, Chris Coleman and Chris Powell – I could list 40 odd players that we brought through.

It was all a case of us nicking an idea from Wimbledon. We replicated what they did at Palace. Ron Noades was the chairman at Wimbledon who took them into the Football League and then he went on to be chairman at Palace.

We then went on to buy Andy Thorn and Eric Young who played in the FA Cup Final. Even in the youth set-up at Palace, we brought in a coach who had done a brilliant job at Wimbledon. We were never going to be the Crazy Gang because that was unique to Wimbledon.


I always felt he was a good player, I made him captain when he was 22, he went on to win the Championship with us. He was always a very steady guy that had a good influence on the other players but again that was a culture we created at Palace. We created good people and Gareth Southgate falls into that category. He has created a strong culture within the current England squad and has all the capabilities of winning silverware with them.


We were lucky in those days that there were no agents. If you wanted to sign a player you could just talk to them directly, you didn’t have to make appointments. Me and Steve had a relationship with every player that we had at Palace. We even knew their mums and dads.

We were able to have a drink with the players. I remember being on the way back from Liverpool away and we stopped the coach so that we could go for a drink.

A lot about football now is the same as it was then, it’s mainly about your man management. If you have buy in from the players you can achieve anything.


When I first met Steve he had only just retired aged 28 after picking up a serious injury, he’d played 232 consecutive games for Manchester United. Our upbringing was very different, it couldn’t have been more further apart but we really got on well.

We’ll tell some stories about some fabulous trips that we had away. From Palace to Man United we’ll look to cover it all and give people a few laughs along the way. We had 10 great years working together and look forward to telling people our story.

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