This week’s Premier League Heroes column is dedicated to Geordie legend Alan Shearer who spent his career in the Premier League playing for Southampton, Blackburn Rovers before going back to the North East to become a Newcastle United legend.
Shearer is a great example of the classic English striker who lacked pace but made up for it in strength and physical stature. The Geordie had a lethal right foot, was great in the air while his eye for goal made him one of the greatest strikers the Premier League has ever seen with a record 260 goals in 434 Premier League appearances.
The 6ft striker began his football career at a young age for local amateur side Wallsend Boys Club in North Tyneside. Shearer was spotted by Southampton scout Jack Hixon and agreed to train with the Saints youth squad. The Geordie had trials with West Brom, Manchester City and Newcastle United but opted to sign a youth contract with Southampton in April 1986. Shearer then moved up the ranks at Southampton and stayed there until 1992 but a £3.6 million bid from Blackburn Rovers was enough to prise him away.
It was not a great start for Shearer at Blackburn Rovers as he spent most of his first season at the club out with a cruciate knee ligament injury although he still impressed on his return, scoring 16 times in 21 appearances. In the 1993/94 season Shearer was outstanding, helping Blackburn to a second place finish with his 31 league goals. He received the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year Award on the back of his excellent performances.
The 1994/95 season saw the formation of the original ‘SAS’ partnership, as Blackburn brought in striker Chris Sutton to play alongside Shearer. It proved a huge success as the duo bagged 49 league goals between them, delivering the Premier League title for Blackburn in the process, with Shearer winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
His goal scoring continued in the 1995/96 season as he racked up 31 Premier League goals and passed the 100 goal milestone for his Blackburn career. Despite his contribution, it was not a successful season for Blackburn as they finished 7th in the league and the striker began to look for a move away from the club.
Manchester United and Newcastle United were both looking for Shearer’s signature, but Kevin Keegan persuaded the Geordie that a return home was the right move. The deal was closed for a whopping £15million on 30 July 1996, which was a world record transfer fee at the time. Kevin Keegan later said of the transfer,
“”What a player. What a man. What a signing. This is a signing for the people of Newcastle. It’s lovely to see a Geordie like Alan come home”.
The expensive striker did not disappoint the Newcastle fans as he was the Premier League’s top scorer for a third successive season with a 25 goal haul that helped Newcastle finish second in the league. Shearer’s stand out moment in his first season came in a game against Leicester when he scored a hat trick in the last 15 minutes to win the game 4-3 for Newcastle.
Shearer’s 1997/98 season was marred by injury as he only scored twice in the league as Newcastle finished 13th. Their new manager Kenny Dalglish also led them to an FA Cup final but they lost 2-0 to Arsenal. Shearer was made captain in the 1998/99 season and he scored 14 times in the league as Newcastle finished 13th again as well as losing another FA Cup final.
Rumours began to spread of tension between Shearer and Ruud Gullit as the new manager dropped Shearer for the Tyne-Wear derby which Newcastle lost to bitter rivals Sunderland. Newcastle fans were livid with boss Gullit and he resigned not long after while he was reported as describing Alan Shearer as,
“The most overrated player I have ever seen”.
Sir Bobby Robson took over the North East club and Shearer became a regular once again. The new boss was always a massive fan of the striker and he even tried to sign the Geordie for Barcelona in 1997 but Newcastle rejected the approach. Shearer impressed in the new manager’s first game in charge as he scored an incredible five goals in an 8-0 annihilation of Sheffield Wednesday. It proved to be patchy season for Newcastle however, as they finished 11th with Shearer the second highest goalscorer in the Premier League with 23 goals.
2000/01 was a disappointing injury blighted season for Shearer, who only managed 5 goals in 19 appearances as Newcastle finished 11th. The 2001/02 season was much more enjoyable for the striker as he bagged 23 goals with Newcastle finishing 4th, qualifying for the Champions league. The standout game of the season was a memorable 4-3 win over rivals Manchester United in a memorable game that saw Roy Keane being sent off after a confrontation with Shearer. Toon fans will also remember a spectacular Shearer volley in a November 2001 game against Aston Villa.
Newcastle finished 3rd in the 2002/03 season with Shearer netting 17 times in 35 games including a memorable 25 yard strike against Everton. The following season saw Shearer become the second highest goalscorer in the League behind Thierry Henry as he helped himself to 22 goals including a thunderbolt goal which against Chelsea.
The 2004-05 season brought Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert to partner Shearer but it was a patchy season for the Geordie as he only managed to score 7 times as Newcastle slumped to a 14th place finish. Shearer was supposed to retire after this season but Newcastle boss Graeme Souness persuaded him to stay on in a player-coach role.
The highlight for Shearer in 2005-06 was when Shearer broke Jackie Milburn’s 49 year old record of 200 goals for Newcastle United when he netted against Portsmouth on the 4th of February 2006. Unfortunately his season was cut short in April as he suffered a tear in his left knee that eventually brought an end to a glittering playing career.
The late Sir Bobby Robson once said of Alan Shearer that,
“He leads the attack with courage and quality. He’s a superb team player and an inspirational captain. As a player he is up there with the very best, with the Lofthouses, Lawtons, Linekers and any other great striker you care to mention”.
The striker was not forgotten by Newcastle fans as they erected a huge banner in St James Park that showed a picture of Shearer performing his famous one arm held aloft celebration while ‘Shearer’s Bar’ in St James Park is named for the the striker. A sell out testimonial game against Celtic in St James Park is indicative of the affection the Toon fans feel for their legend.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.