When you think of goalscorers in the Premier League, so many names come to mind, we have been blessed over the years with an abundance of goalscoring talent in the form of players like Teddy Sheringham, Les Ferdinand, and more recently players like Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah have all shown us their remarkable goalscoring skills.
But in the 1990’s, and even into the new millennium, there was only one man who was tearing up the records and carving his name into the very fabric of English football itself. He has a legacy that will stand the test of time as one of the all time greats of this game, I am of course talking about Alan Shearer.
Born in Gosforth, Newcastle on 13th August 1970, Shearer was encouraged by his parents to pursue his interest in sports and was a key component in helping a Newcastle City Schools seven a side team win a tournament at St James’ Park. From there he joined amateur club Wallsend Boys, and initially was a midfielder, as this allowed him to be more involved in games. Whilst playing for Wallsend, he was spotted by a scout of Southampton, which resulted in him spending his summers training with the team, and after several trials with some of the top First Division teams of the time, he was eventually offered a Youth Contract by Southampton in April 1986.
Shearer spent two years in the Southampton youth team, perfecting his craft, and transitioning from his favoured midfield role to that of an out and out striker. After impressing at youth level, he was promoted to the first team squad and made his professional debut on 26th March 1988 as a substitute against Chelsea. His full debut two weeks later was the one that really grabbed all the headlines though, as he scored a hat trick in a 4-2 win over Arsenal, and in doing so taking the first record of his career in becoming the youngest player to score a hat trick in the top division of English Football at 17 years, 240 days. After a handful of other games, Shearer was given his first professional contract.
Over the next few years, Shearer was eased into the first team set up, scoring 7 goals in 72 appearances over the next 3 seasons, but it was the 90-91 season where Shearer begun to live up to the promise that was seen in him, as he scored 13 goals in 41 First Division appearances for Southampton. This resulted in him being called up by the England Under 21 team for the Toulon Tournament in 1991. Whilst he may not have been scoring for fun in the First Division, he had no problems doing so in the tournament and was arguably the star of it with 7 goals in 4 games.
Shearer’s style of play was what is now considered almost typical of an English striker. He possessed great strength which allowed him to hold up the ball in key areas and bring his team mates into the game, using his early development as a midfielder to create opportunities for team mates such as Matt Le Tissier (who I have written here about previously). He possessed great heading ability and a ferocious shot, and could operate as a lone striker or with a strike partner as we will go into later in this article. Occasionally his aggressive, physical play saw him come in for criticism, as he was never shy in using his elbows if the occasion called for it. Despite this, Shearer only received two red cards in his career, but one was later rescinded on appeal.
For myself as a fan, I never tired of watching Alan play. He had the tenacity and desire to win that made him stand out and made him a dangerous opponent for any defender he came up against. My first real memories of watching Alan play was the Euro 96 tournament, where he and England strike partner Teddy Sheringham scored two goals apiece in a 4-1 demolition of Holland in a group game. Alan’s trademark goal celebration, running down the touchline with his right hand aloft, became a sight I saw often in my childhood, and there was a belief that he would be the man to lead England to international honours again after a 30 year wait. Ultimately, this never happened (unless you count the Le Tournoi tournament win in 1998, a friendly competition between France, Italy, Brazil and England as a warm up to France 98) but the mark he left on his country will never be forgotten.
Named Southampton’s player of the year for 1991, Shearer was linked with a move to Manchester United, not for the first time in his career, but rejected talk of the move and insisted he would see out the season with Southampton, showing a sense of loyalty towards the club that gave him his big break. It was a bold move, as in doing so he resisted the temptation to join a team making waves in the title race, and was also linked with that years FA Cup winners, Liverpool, but again the move never materialised.
During 1992, Southampton manager Ian Branfoot become “the most popular manager in English football” as the phone was ringing off the hook with clubs attempting to buy Shearer. Branfoot always insisted that the club were in control of the situation, but that ultimately, it would be Shearer who decided his own future. Eventually in July of that year, Shearer was sold to Blackburn Rovers for a then record fee of £3.6m, with a very reluctant David Speedie moving to Southampton as part of the deal. Despite what was undoubtedly a great deal for the club, they dropped the ball a little by not including a sell on clause, something which would later come back to haunt them in the biggest way. Shearer ended his time at Southampton with 43 goals in 158 first team appearances.
Despite becoming the most expensive player in British football, Shearer’s first season at Blackburn did not go as well as planned. He snapped the ACL in his right knee in December of that year during a match against Leeds, missing the rest of the season, but had scored an impressive 16 goals in the 21 games he played prior to that. He also became an England regular, and scored the first of his 30 England goals against Turkey in a World Cup Qualifier in November just prior to his season ending injury.
He came back strong in the 93-94 season, scoring an impressive 31 goals in 40 appearances, leading Blackburn to a 2nd place finish in the second Premier League season. As a result of this, he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year, his first of many individual awards he would go on to win in his career. During the 94-95 season, Chris Sutton arrived from Norwich for £5m, and the SAS (Shearer And Sutton) was formed. They were a lethal strikeforce, carving apart defences and scoring an incredible 49 goals between them that season, Shearer himself grabbing 34 of those. It was inevitable that due to this, Blackburn were able to wrestle the Premier League title away from Manchester United, providing Shearer with the only top flight championship win of his career, which frankly is almost criminal for a player of his calibre. He also won the PFA Player’s Player of the Year for 1995, which is testament to the respect he earned from his peers.
Over the next couple of seasons, Blackburn didn’t really achieve all that much, but on a personal front, Shearer was still banging goals in from all angles. He scored his 100th goal for Blackburn in all competitions against Coventry, as he grabbed a hat trick in a Premier League game in September of 1995, and then on 30th December he scored his 100th Premier League goal for Blackburn in a 2-1 win over Tottenham. As he received the ball from Lars Bohinen, Shearer was 20 yards out and with his back to goal. He took one touch, gave himself half a yard, and then fired it over his shoulder and into the top right corner of the goal. It almost had no right to go in, but that showed the skill with which Shearer was working, he was on an entirely different level to almost any other striker in the Premier League at that time. (See video below from World Football HD on YouTube)
After Euro 96,where Shearer added to his international goals tally with another 5 goals, he was again linked with a move to Manchester United, but for the second time, Shearer turned down a move to Old Trafford in favour of a World Record £15m to his boyhood club Newcastle United (As a result of being turned down by Shearer, United went on to buy a certain “baby faced assassin” from Norwegian club Molde…) It was later stated by former United Chairman Martin Edwards that Blackburn flat out refused to let Shearer join them, possibly due to the local rivalry between the two clubs. In any case, Shearer had returned home, and to make it all the sweeter, Newcastle were managed by Shearer’s personal hero, Kevin Keegan. His first season with Newcastle ended with him as top scorer in the Premier League once again with 25 goals in 31 appearances, as well as another PFA Player of the Year award. This was the season where Shearer came closest to adding to his trophy cabinet, As Newcastle finished 2nd behind Manchester United in the Premier League, a year after they came so close to winning it in a season which has become famous for Newcastle blowing a 12 point lead.
The 97-98 season was essentially a write off for Shearer, as injuries restricted him to just two goals in 17 appearances, and it showed just how much Newcastle missed him up front as they finished 13th in the Premier League. They did have the chance to win the FA Cup though, as they reached the final, but lost to the team who also won the Premier League that year, Arsenal.
Next up was the 1998 World Cup, where Shearer was again a lynchpin in the England team, scoring two goals against Tunisia and Argentina. Unfortunately, this was to be Shearer only appearance in the World Cup finals, as after a shambolic Euro 2000 tournament Shearer retired from International football. The following 98-99 season resulted in Newcastle again finishing 13th, with Shearer scoring 14 goals in 30 appearances. Newcastle again reached the FA Cup Final, but lost to the Premier League Champions, Manchester United, who went on to record a historic treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League (a certain “baby faced assassin” played a huge part in that too…). Despite losing, Newcastle qualified for the UEFA Cup as FA Cup runners up.
The 99-00 started with some controversy for Shearer, as on the opening day Shearer picked up the first red card of his career on his 100th league appearance for Newcastle, and was subsequently dropped to the bench for the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland. This proved to be the catalyst for the departure of then Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit, who was replaced by Bobby Robson. Gullit stated in a later interview that Shearer was “The most overrated player I have ever seen.”
Bobby Robson clearly did not agree with this, as he reinstated Shearer to the starting 11 for his first match in charge, and was repaid handsomely be Shearer as he scored 5 goals in an 8-0 annihilation of Sheffield Wednesday. With Robson at the helm and Shearer restored to the starting line up, Newcastle put their dismal start behind them and moved up the table, finishing mid table and Shearer scoring 23 goals that year.
Between 2000-2005, Newcastle were in and around the mix for European football, qualifying twice for the Champions League. The 01-02 season saw Newcastle finish 4th, their highest finish to the league since 1997, helped enormously by Shearers 23 goals. Shearer also picked up the second red card of his career in this season, for allegedly elbowing a player in a match against Charlton, but this was later rescinded.
The 02-03 season saw Newcastle start badly in the Champions League, losing their first 3 group games, but eventually managed to qualify from the first group stage after winning the remaining three games against Dynamo Kyiv, Juventus and Feyenoord. Despite scoring a hat trick against Bayer Leverkusen in the second group stage, Newcastle crashed out of the Champions League, but Shearer himself finished with a very credible 7 goals, added to the 17 he scored in the league that season as Newcastle finished 3rd and again qualified for the Champions League for the 03-04 season, but they were knocked out on penalties to Partizan Belgrade in the 3rd Qualifying round. This though did put them into the UEFA Cup, where Shearer’s 6 goals helped them reach the semi finals. Another good league season gave Shearer 22 goals, missing only one game all season.
Now in his mid-thirties, Shearer announced that the 04-05 season would be his last, as he announced he would retire at the seasons end. He scored 7 goals in 28 games alongside new strike partner Patrick Kluivert, and reached the UEFA Cup quarter finals, shere Shearer proved his undoubtable quality with yet another hat trick in the first round against Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin. During the course of the season, it came out that Shearer was close to breaking the all time scoring record for Newcastle United set by Jackie Millburn of 200 goals. This, coupled with some persuasion from Newcastle manager at the time Graeme Souness, saw Shearer reverse his decision to retire, and state he would continue for one more season. Shearer did break the record, scoring his 201st Newcastle goal against Portsmouth in February 2006, before an injury ruled him out of the final 3 games of Newcastle’s season. His final tally for the 05-06 season saw him score 10 goals in 32 games.
Shearer got his well deserved testimonial again Celtic in May of 2006, as he kicked off the match and scored a penalty in a 3-2 win. St James’ Park was full to the rafters that day, with all proceeds being donated to charity.
Alan Shearer’s phenomenal goalscoring record is going to be a hard one to beat. He is the all time leading scorer in the Premier League with 260 goals, and 283 league goals in his career, all of which came in the top flight. Overall he has 379 goals in 734 career appearances at club level, with 3o goals in 63 games at international level. Whilst it is a real shame a player of his calibre only has one major honour, the 94-95 Premier League Title, he has won numerous individual awards, winning the Premier League Golden Boot 3 times, 2 PFA Player’s Player of the Year awards, FWA Footballer of the Year, and placed 3rd in the 1996 Ballon d’Or. He was also honoured by the Premier League with 10 and 20 Seasons Awards.
In terms of records, again he has a few. In addition to his Premier League goals record of 260, he also hold the record for most goals in a 42 game season with 34, most Premier League Hat tricks with 11, Most Penalties scored with 56, Most Goals from inside the box with 227, and equalled the most goals in a game record set by Andy Cole with 5. At Newcastle he hold the all time goalscorer record for the club with 206, with 30 of those coming in European competition, which is also a club record.
There is no one on the planet who could deny that Alan Shearer is one of the all time greats of the beautiful game. David Orman, a Southampton fan had this to say about Shearer:
“I always thought it was awesome that one of the greatest strikers to ever play in the Premier League started his career at Saints. I saw Newcastle playa couple of times in the 90s and he was always a threat, he made me nervous when he was in front of goal. His volley against Everton has to be one of the best goals ever scored. Absolute belter.”
Its hard to argue with his opinion on the goal also, as you can see below. (Video from Bushy on YouTube.)
Alan Shearer will always be one of the best players to ever grace English football, and can still be seen providing expert analysis as a football pundit for the BBC, and will surely one day be knighted for services to football, to go along with his OBE and CBE that he received in 2001 and 2016 respectively. Shearer also carries out numerous responsibilities for charity, and has raised significant sums of money for many charities. Put simply, Alan Shearer is a role model for all boys and girls everywhere who dream of making it as a professional footballer.
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