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April 01, 2009
While April Fool’s Day has pretty much come and gone by now, the day will be remembered by sports fans for the unbelievable, yet seemingly true story that Alan Shearer is to take charge as Newcastle manager until the end of the season – even though it still hasn’t been officially confirmed. It’s believability isn’t in question because it’s a notion too hard to fathom – quite the opposite, it’s an idea that’s been banded about Tyneside ever since Bobby Robson’s time as Newcastle manager was questioned. But never before has Shearer, a Geordie hero since his then record-breaking £15 million move to St. James’ Park from Blackburn Rovers, even come close to taking up the role which has seemed to become vacant in recent years as often as England have changed their kits.
Shearer’s past reluctance hasn’t been because he has no interest managing the club he supported from the terraces as a young boy. Instead, the former England and Newcastle striker has seemed to avoid taking up the job due to a lack of desire to work under Newcastle’s owners, be them the unpopular John Hall and Freddie Shepherd, or the nemesis of Tyneside Mike Ashley. But Ashley, despite the Newcastle fans’ wishes and his subsequent attempts to sell, is still at the helm of the club that’s becoming as well-known for having thousands of fans standing outside St. James’ wondering whether one of the clubs favourite sons is coming or going as it is performance on the field. So what’s motivated Shearer to finally take the plunge and have Newcastle fans in jubilation until the weekend at least? A question answerable in two words. Impending relegation.
And it is the influence of this potential disaster which prompted this article. When discussing today’s developments in the North East, a number of people have suggested to me that Shearer is taking charge because his love for the club is so strong that he will do everything he feels he can to prevent the doomed fate of Championship football. Even if it means sacrificing his reputation and popularity with the fans who cheered every goal he scored and chanted his name as he infamously ran by them in celebration one arm aloft. While a noble and optimistic view of Shearer, I believe it is a wrong one. Newcastle have been in trouble before, albeit not quite so deeply as now, but the record Premier League goal-scorer has not batted an eyelid when turning down the opportunity to save the club before.
The difference this time, is that the decision isn’t one requiring sacrifices. Shearer will be Newcastle’s manager for eight games. If Newcastle stay up; Shearer’s status as a Tyneside God increases. If Newcastle go down; Shearer put the club before himself, tried his best but didn’t have the time/personnel to work the miracle required. To put it simply; Shearer can not fail. He will walk away (or indeed perhaps stay on if successful) a Newcastle hero, whatever happens. Whether this is the beginning of a long and successful managerial career for Alan Shearer, we’ll have to wait and see. But for now, I see something more of the politician perhaps than the manager. He’s chosen the right time under the right circumstances for him personally; the worst possible time and circumstances for Newcastle United. The only way is up; or at least that’s what their fans will hope.