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Opinion

The whole of Newcastle needed a lift and Alan Shearer was the man to do it

1 month ago
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In the summer of 1996 the whole of Newcastle needed a lift.

Having agonisingly missed out on the Premier League title the season before at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, a black cloud hovered over the city.

Fortunately for Newcastle fans, a transfer was about to happen that would shock the football world. Alan Shearer came home for a world record fee of £15 million.

At that time, Shearer had just enjoyed four hugely successful years with Jack Walker’s Blackburn Rovers, scoring 131 goals in just 170 appearances and claiming a Premier League title along the way.

After his performances at Euro 96, where he finished as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals as Terry Venables’ side made it to the semi-finals, Alan Shearer was arguably the most sought after striker in world football.

The smart money was on him going to Manchester United, but remarkably, miraculously, the persuasive powers of a certain Kevin Keegan persuaded Shearer that it was time to return home to try and deliver some silverware to a fan base that had been deprived of success for far too long.

Now we all know how the story turns out. Shearer would never lift a trophy during his time at the club though he did come close on a number of occasions. What he did give us though were 206 goals and a decade of memories. In a series of articles I’ll be looking back at his goalscoring exploits during his time at the club.

Despite the huge fanfare when he arrived it would be fair to say that Shearer’s Newcastle United career didn’t get off to the best of starts. His first match in the black and white shirt was in the Charity Shield against Manchester United. A pre-season game in all but name it still represented the first opportunity for us to gain some semblance of revenge on the Red Devils for the previous season and also the chance to lift a trophy at Wembley. Unfortunately though, we were blown away by a dominant Manchester United performance, who absolutely battered us, winning 4-0.

The first league game of the season was Everton away, a tough start to the season on paper and so it proved, being comfortably outplayed and losing 2-0.

Shearer would have been forgiven for scratching his head and wondering whether he had made the right decision. However, he was yet to play at St James Park and it would be in his first home game that he would get off the mark in front of 36,000 adoring Geordies.

After being given an early lead with a spectacular chip from David Batty in the third minute of the game, a tense Newcastle side held on to the 1-0 advantage against a typically physical Wimbledon. With just two minutes remaining though, Newcastle got a free kick just outside the box and up stepped Shearer, who curled the ball brilliantly into the top corner and past the despairing dive of Neil Sullivan.

He would score a penalty in the next game against Sheffield Wednesday but the side lost 2-1 as our indifferent start to the season continued. He would then go three games without a goal as Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley and Tino Asprilla found their scoring boots. His third goal for the club would also come from the penalty spot against his old club Blackburn Rovers in a 2-1 victory which lifted us up to third position as we shook off our early season rust.

Shearer was also now very much up and running. His next goal came in a vital 1-0 win away at Leeds United. It was a lovely move with Peter Beardsley playing an incisive pass into the on rushing Rob Lee. Lee turned and slipped the ball into Shearer who rifled the ball into the bottom corner at the near post to send Keegan’s men to the top of the Premier League table once more.

His next goal would come in a thrilling game that typified the Keegan years at Newcastle United when Aston Villa came to town. The game was famous for a Dwight Yorke hat-trick, while Les Ferdinand also bagged two, but Shearer was fantastic in that game, a marauding physical presence who gave the Aston Villa back line a torrid time, and he was rewarded with a goal, smashing home a rebound after Les Ferdinand’s driven effort had been cleared off the line. The game was eventually won by Newcastle 4-3.

So by the end of September, Newcastle were sat second in the table, Shearer had five goals and he was building a promising partnership with Les Ferdinand. The Geordie faithful had a new hero to believe in. The despair of the previous season, while not forgotten, was becoming a more distant memory.

There were plenty more goals to come.

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