Image courtesy of guardian.co.uk
After Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, Alan Smith, one of a raft of Leeds starlets, signed for Manchester United.
He was injured for a fair whack of his first season at United and added to the capture of Wayne Rooney, as well as the form of Ruud van Nistelrooy, chances for Smith up front were limited at best.
The following season (2005-06), Smith played in a more withdrawn role as a midfield anchor.
It took him a while to get accustomed to the role and just as he seemed to be hitting his stride, Smith and his Manchester United colleagues went to Anfield.
In an FA Cup tie on February 18th 2006, Liverpool faced their old rivals Manchester United.
There looked to be nothing in it as Smith tried to innocuously block a free-kick.
As he landed, it became clear for fans, players, managers and officials in the ground that something was seriously wrong.
It was later revealed that as he landed, Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle with no one near him.
At the time, Smith told The Sun newspaper (via bbc.co.uk): "When I looked, the leg was lying one way and my ankle was pointing towards Hong Kong so I knew I was in serious trouble."
The same newspaper also quoted Sir Alex Ferguson telling MUTV that Smith's injury was, "It's one of the worst I've seen. It's a very long-term injury."
Almost miraculously, Smith returned just over six months later as a substitute against Benfica in the Champions League.
In just over six-and-a-half years since his injury, Smith has made just over 100 league appearances for Manchester United, Newcastle United and his current side, MK Dons.
Smith himself has even acknowledged that the injury effectively ended his career.
In an interview with Colin Young of the Daily Mail newspaper a couple of years ago, Smith said, "I've not been the same player since my injury."
He could have been a lynchpin in the Manchester United midfield after Roy Keane's departure had he been fit and able to.
Smith was the kind of player you'd love to hate and hate to love—you'd hate him if he was playing against you, but you'd love him in your team.
The sad truth is that because of his horrific injury, no one will ever know just how good Alan Smith could have been.