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Opinion

12 years on after Alan Shearer helped end Gareth Southgate club management career

1 week ago
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On 11 May 2009, Alan Shearer and Newcastle United lined up against Gareth Southgate and Middlesbrough.

Both clubs in a desperate fight against relegation from the Premier League.

With the scores level and 20 minutes to go, an inspired substitution from Alan Shearer, bringing on Obafemi Martins for Michael Owen, paid off with two late goals securing a vital three points in front of a rapturous St James Park and taking Newcastle out of the relegation zone.

After the game, Alan Shearer was rightly praised for his intervention, while Gareth Southgate was condemned to almost certain relegation during his third season in charge of Middlesbrough.

If you had been asked back then which of the two men in the dugout would be more likely to be a future England manager, all fingers would have pointed in the direction of Shearer and not the beleaguered Southgate.

However, 12 years on and Gareth Southgate has led England to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, overcoming old rivals Germany in the process and banishing his personal ghosts from Euro 96, while Shearer has watched on from the BBC Sport studio.

So what happened after the events of 11 May 2009 which led to the two former England teammates heading on such different trajectories?

Despite Newcastle’s victory on that warm May evening it was the only one Shearer would enjoy during his eight matches in charge. Two defeats to Fulham and Aston Villa followed, which allowed Hull City to sneak out of the relegation zone and condemn Newcastle United to second tier football.

Newcastle were joined in the relegation zone by Southgate’s side.

However, the two managers enjoyed differing fortunes that summer. Steve Gibson showed loyalty to Southgate, proclaiming him to be the man to bring Boro straight back to the Premier League.

Unfortunately for Alan Shearer, while Mike Ashley had said all the right things about him leading Newcastle’s promotion challenge, after Shearer put a detailed plan together for promotion and beyond (at the owner’s request) – he never ever heard from Ashley again, with Chris Hughton appointed, initially on a temporary basis.

Despite various links over the years, mainly with his former clubs Southampton and Blackburn Rovers, this was to be Shearer’s only foray into top level management or coaching. 12 years on from relegation with Newcastle it seems highly unlikely that he will ever dip his toe in the coaching or management world again.

Southgate though has enjoyed contrasting fortunes. If it had been a surprise that Southgate kept his job after experiencing relegation, it was perhaps an even bigger surprise when Steve Gibson eventually dispensed with his services the following season. He was sacked on 20 October 2009 after a 2-0 victory over Derby County which left them in 4th place in the Championship and just a point off the top of the table.

Gibson’s decision would ultimately prove to be a mistake. Gordon Strachan was appointed as Southgate’s replacement and would win just two of his first 13 matches in charge as Boro slipped out of play-off contention. They wouldn’t get back to the Premier League until 2016.

Despite the ignominious end to his first job in football management, Southgate wasn’t out of the game for too long and in January 2011 he was appointed the FA’s Head of Elite Development, a role he would hold for 18 months before resigning from the position in July 2012.

The powers that be at the top of English football had obviously seen something they liked in Southgate though and in August 2013 he was appointed England U21 manager, a position he would hold for just over three years.

Gareth Southgate managed the team 37 times, winning on 27 occasions and losing just five times. Despite this impressive record his side disappointed at the 2015 European Championships, going out in the group stages of the competition.

They then bounced back the following summer winning the 2016 Toulon tournament, beating France 2-1 in the final in impressive fashion.

However, it would be the events at senior level in the summer of 2016 which would go on to shape Southgate’s future. Following England’s humiliation at the hands of Iceland in the last 16 at Euro 2016, Roy Hodgson was relieved of his duties.

In his role covering Euro 2016, Alan Shearer was particularly scathing of England’s performance at the tournament. labelling it ‘the worst performance I’ve ever seen from an England team. Ever.’

Perhaps more interestingly, he then went on to throw his own name into the ring for the job, alongside a certain Gareth Southgate.

Shearer said:

“I went to see the Football Association four or five years ago and said I want the England job. They looked at me and said: ‘No, you haven’t got the experience’.

“I said you have hired experienced managers, spent a fortune on them and I could not have done any worse.

“I would speak to the FA now, definitely. I’d offer my experience, tournament experience. Even if Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate gets it.”

It was always highly unlikely that the FA would ever have appointed Shearer to follow Hodgson given the experience that he acknowledged he lacked but Gareth Southgate was certainly a more realistic proposition.

However, he was quick to rule himself out of contention and somewhat inexplicably, former Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce found himself given the job after rescuing Sunderland from relegation at the expense of his former employers the previous season.

Allardyce would only get one game in the job, a dull 1-0 very late victory away against Slovakia, before he was caught out giving advice to undercover Daily Telegraph journalists, with Allardyce detailing how to get around third party ownership of players and making derogatory comments about former manager Roy Hodgson.

He was ‘mutually’ relieved of his duties and Southgate was appointed on a temporary contract, winning two and draw two of his games in charge and when he was offered the role on a permanent basis he didn’t turn it down a second time, signing a four year contract.

Gareth Southgate has never looked back, making the country proud of the national side again. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup he became only the third England manager (after Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson) in history to reach a World Cup semi-final.

This progress continued with a third place finish in the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Following a year’s delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Southgate has successfully navigated England to a first European Championship semi-final since 1996, where he will lead his side against Denmark for a chance to play in the final against Spain or Italy.

In his recent BBC Sport column following the thumping 4-0 victory over Ukraine, Shearer said:

“No one wants this tournament to end, including the England players who are giving us so much entertainment.

“They should be very proud of what they are doing, because they have lifted the entire country after an awful few months.”

It has been a long way back for Gareth Southgate from the lows of losing to Newcastle United on 11 May 2009 and the relegation and eventual sacking that followed.

But if he is lifting a trophy above his head on Sunday evening it will all have been worth it and will surely lay to rest the ghosts of Euro 96, that Gareth Southgate and Alan Shearer have been carrying for the last 25 years.

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