Delima Posted April 27, 2007 Share Posted April 27, 2007 The Independent Interview: Former Newcastle United player Alan Shearer The former England international and Newcastle's record goalscorer can do and say no wrong on Tyneside, where he remains a folk hero. But has the elusive marksman's new role as a BBC pundit softened his famously frosty response to searching questions? Not one bit... By Brian Viner Published: 27 April 2007 The 360 pupils of Gosforth East Middle School in Newcastle are already getting ready for morning assembly when a black Baby Bentley glides to a halt outside the main entrance. Its personalised number plate would offer the kids a rather big clue to the identity of the driver, but none of them sees it. In assembly a few minutes later, however, they know they are in for a school morning out of the ordinary when Radio Five Live reporter Mark Clemmitt bounds up on to the stage. "Are you all Middlesbrough fans?" he cries. A roar of indignation. "Shall we sing 'Roy Keane's red-and-white army'?" Another roar. "I've got a surprise for you," shouts Clemmitt. The surprise is the FA Cup, borne on to the stage by two beefy minders. It's a stunt to publicise the inaugural E.ON National FA Cup Schools Day (which took place earlier this week), and the kids follow the script almost as if they've rehearsed it, gazing at the glittering trophy with shock and awe. "Now I've got another surprise for you," Clemmitt tells them. "Can anyone tell me the name of the greatest player ever to play for Newcastle United, the man who scored 30 goals for England?" Approximately 360 hands shoot up. "Well, here he is..." When Alan Shearer walks out, the place goes wild. Even the sensible kids, the prefects and monitors, get to their feet and bow. I think I might also have spotted a slight genuflection from one of the teachers. And a high-pitched version of the cry that so often lifted the roof at St James' Park rings out: "Shearer! Shearer! Shearer!" An hour or so later the pandemonium has died down, although in the school gym there is still a palpable frisson of excitement, because Shearer is there, wearing his characteristic inscrutable smile while 20-odd boys and girls dribble footballs back and forth. Like everyone else, I wonder whether he expects to be doing the same thing one day with 20-odd millionaire footballers, as Newcastle United manager. And it is a question I will soon get to put to him, because I have been promised a 20-minute interview in the corner of the gym. Of course, interviews with Shearer are famously unproductive, or at least they were during his playing career. The really quotable post-match line from Shearer was right up there with the holy grail as an elusive commodity. But now he is taking the media shilling, as a pundit for the BBC. Surely he will be more forthcoming than he used to be? Wrong. He is as infuriatingly cagey and mostly as anodyne as he ever was, and when our interview is ended some distance short of the promised 20 minutes, I can't say that I feel any burning regret. Later, I ask if I might email him some further questions, in the hope that he will be more chatty to his computer. But he manages to be as terse via email as he is in person. On the other hand, he's still Alan Shearer, still the Premiership's most prolific goalscorer by some considerable distance, still a Geordie god. Here are the questions that elicited the most interesting answers from him. "Alan, you played on the losing Newcastle side in two FA Cup finals [2-0 defeats by Arsenal in 1998 and Manchester United the following year] - so are your Cup memories happy or regretful ones?" "I should hate the competition but I don't. Anyone who tells you that getting to a the FA Cup final is great is a liar. It's only great if you go on and win it. If you get there and don't win it, it's one of the worst days of your life, and that happened to me twice. Of course, it's a great feeling, walking out for the Cup final. You're up for it like you've never been up for anything before. But you can multiply that great feeling by 10 million, in a bad way, when you're walking up for your losers' medal." "Everyone in this room, this school, this city, wants to know when you will go into management?" "Yeah, well, I can't do anything about the speculation. I'm doing my coaching badges, hopefully finalising my A-licence at the end of May, and it's important for me to do that. I've always said that one day I might want to go into management but there's no timescale on it. I've signed a four-year contract with the BBC and I'm busier than I've ever been in my life." "When you do become a manager, might you take the Paul Ince route [with Macclesfield Town] and go in at a lower level, to learn the trade? Or go straight into the hot seat at St James' Park?" "If you know the answer to that," he says slightly shirtily, "then tell me, because I don't. I'm always getting asked the question, and I always give the same answer. I don't know." "OK, let's change the subject. Are you worried that so few English youngsters are breaking into Premiership teams, relatively speaking? It's not like it was in your day, is it?" "No, times have changed. You don't see kids in the street every night playing football, but kids, particularly here in the North, still love their football. Where else in the world would you get people going into schools and trying to educate them about a football cup competition? This is a great scheme and we need to do more of it, get them back playing football. "In terms of youngsters at clubs, I was a big fan of the old apprenticeship, the old YTS scheme. I did mine at Southampton from 15 to 18, cleaning boots, learning life and a little bit of respect. They don't do any of that now, which is a shame. I can't say that I enjoyed cleaning Mark Dennis's boots at the time, but I look back now and think, 'Yeah, it was good for me'." "Let's talk about England. Were you pleased when Steve McClaren succeeded Sven Goran Eriksson?" "I was, yeah. He works very hard, he's an excellent coach, and you don't hear the players saying anything against him. I still think we'll qualify [for Euro 2008]. The players are too good not to. I'm not having anyone telling me that [Wayne] Rooney or [steven] Gerrard or [Rio] Ferdinand are not world-class players. But you also need the right balance in the team. We haven't been able to do that for some time, my time included. I'd like to see us stretching teams more up front and if you haven't got Michael Owen to do that alongside Rooney, then you need [Andy] Johnson or [Jermain] Defoe or [Darren] Bent. Peter Crouch doesn't get in behind defences, and I don't want to criticise him because he's great at what he does but..." At this point, with Shearer in danger of enlightening me a little more on England's problems in attack, the interview comes to a close. Here is the pick of his answers to lots of questions I later emailed, the more searching of which he overlooked altogether. "What did you learn from Kenny Dalglish when you joined Blackburn? Did he improve you technically, and if so, specifically how?" "Him and Ray Harford improved me in every aspect both on and off the field." "Why do you think Kenny didn't succeed at Newcastle?" "Right manager, wrong time." "Who was the toughest defender you ever played against? Was there one guy who more often than not got the better of you?" "No one got the better of me. The best defender was Tony Adams. We had some great battles over the years." "I'm not going to ask you to name the best goal you've scored because I'm sure everyone does, but what is the best goal you've ever seen?" "My volley against Everton four years ago." Would you like to see Celtic and Rangers joining the Premiership one day? "Yes, I would love to. Two huge clubs, but I'm not sure it will ever happen." "Who was the one player, at whatever level, who most complemented you in attack? The Toshack to your Keegan, as it were. And why?" "Ferdinand at Newcastle. Sheringham with England." "I'm sure it doesn't keep you up at night, but how much of a regret is it that you ended your career without winning medals with Newcastle or England?" "I have no regrets whatsoever. I gave it my best shot." So did I, bonny lad, so did I. 'Super Al ' the black and white goal machine Recognised as one of English football's favourite son's, Shearer dominated the English game for two decades with his goalscoring brilliance. He shot to prominence in 1988 at 17, becoming the youngest player to score a First Division hat-trick in 30 years when he hit three on his full Southampton debut against Arsenal. A £3.6m move to Blackburn followed in 1992 and his prolific partnership with Chris Sutton helped to fire Jack Walker's side to a Premiership title in 1995. After winning the Euro '96 Golden Boot with five goals, "Super Al" secured a dream move to boyhood heroes Newcastle for a then world record fee of £15m. He overtook "Wor" Jackie Milburn's club record of 200 goals in February 2006, finishing on 206 upon his retirement last April. He finished with 63 England caps, scoring 30 goals, and remains the all-time Premiership top scorer with 260 goals. He has been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame and now works as a pundit for the BBC. Link to post Share on other sites More sharing options...
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