Football: Scorer, scorer, scorer: Key chapters in the Shearer story

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The Independent Online
The teacher

Jimmy Nelson was the master in charge of the Gosforth High School team Alan Shearer captained from under-14 to under-16 level.

"We share our site with Grange First School and I first became aware of Alan when he was a nine-year-old there. They used to play six-a-side in the playground, using skittles for goals, and our caretaker, Norman Teasdale, ran the team. I can remember him saying to me: 'We've got this player coming across to your school and he's going to be a star.' I never thought one day Alan would be worth pounds 15m but I always thought he had a good chance of being a footballer. He was a very aggressive young player. He played in midfield for my team so we could make the most of him. He used to get hold of the ball and make those surging runs he does now. I can remember one match we were playing into a gale-force wind and he ran the full length of the pitch to score.

"He was never the cleverest of lads academically but he was smashing to teach. He always gave his best, whatever he did. We take great pleasure in the way he conducts himself. We had a spot of bother with bullying last year and when we held an assembly about it the theme was 'What would Alan Shearer do in the same position?' It's great to have a role model like Alan. It's funny, but when I finished the three-year cycle of taking his team from under-14 to under-16 level I went back to the next under- 14 side and their captain was Robbie Elliott. So I suppose last Sunday it was Gosforth High School 4 Leicester City 3."

The scout

Jack Hixon was Southampton's scout in the North-east when he spotted Shearer, at 13, playing for the Newcastle city boys team.

"The thing that impressed me right from the start was the competitive element in Alan's play, his combative spirit. He wasn't a particularly big lad but he had a lot of strength. He stimulated my interest by his sheer drive and aggressive running. He wanted to get forward and make ground. I had no prior recommendation. There was no particular player I was at that game to watch. It was just a general check. His father, Alan, was standing on his own on the far side of the pitch and I went round and introduced myself. He went down to the Dell for a trial and later signed associate schoolboy forms.

"There are many reasons why young lads don't make it - their physique doesn't develop, or their technique, or their pace. But attitude and application are the foundation and there was never ever going to be a shortfall in that respect with Alan. He has tremendous mental strength. He wants to play and he wants to win. I could tell from that first game that he was a winner. His team won that first time I saw him. Of course you could not have projected into the future and forecast how well he has done. He's No 1 in the world for me. Watching him score that hat-trick against Leicester last week, he's like Churchill - he's the man for the hour. In fact he's the man for all hours, and all seasons too. His horizons as a footballer are unlimited. And he happens to be a superb human being as well."

The team-mate

John Burridge was Southampton's goalkeeper the day Shearer marked his full Football League debut as a 17-year-old YTS player with a hat-trick against Arsenal at the Dell in April 1988.

"Alan was in a crop of extremely good youth team players Dave Merrington was responsible for putting together. As well as Alan there were the Wallace brothers, Jeff Kenna, Francis Benali, Neil Maddison, Steve Davis and Gary Bull. Myself and Tim Flowers used to practise crosses with them and we always put Alan in the middle. He was so good I used to think, 'I'll have this little get'. So I clattered him one day, and he just kept coming back for more. It didn't bother him. I dived at his legs in training once and he hurdled over me. I shouted at him, 'Never jump over the keeper. Go for the ball. Put your foot in'. Well, I was playing for Falkirk four years later and Southampton came up for a friendly. Alan came in goal at me and gave me four stitches. He came up to me in the bar afterwards and said, 'You told me to do it'. I just smiled and said, 'Good lad'.

"As a goalkeeper what you fear about Alan is his sheer power and his determination. He sees the ball and the net. His nickname at Southampton was 'Shots' because he'd never pass. If he could see the goal he'd hit the ball. I can remember that game against Arsenal when he made his full debut. I was surprised. He showed no nerves. He was just like he is now. All of his success has not gone to his head. It's like what Kevin Keegan said about Alan: what you see is what you get. He's that type of lad."

The managers

Between them, Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan paid pounds 18.3m to take Alan Shearer back to his native Newcastle from Southampon - via Blackburn.

Keegan: "I was as animated as any fan at the ground when I watched the end of the Leicester game on television last Sunday and Alan Shearer went boom, boom, boom. What a player. What a man. What a signing. And for him to dedicate the hat-trick to me...Well, that was a nice, touching moment for an ex-manager.

I was as ecstatic as the Newcastle supporters when Alan said he wanted to come home last summer. We bought the best for the best. I signed some big-name players but none of them came any bigger or better than Alan Shearer. The man is a great player. I first tried to sign him just before he went from Southampton to Blackburn. He came on leaps and bounds at Blackburn. But he's only 26, with great, great days ahead of him. The lovely thing is he's going to enjoy those great days with Newcastle United. It's a wonderful prospect for the Newcastle supporters."

Dalglish: "What more can you say about Alan? I simply don't know. He's got the ability. He's had the plaudits. He's endured a bad injury. And yet he's remained a really nice fellow. He has kept his credibility and his hunger to be successful. Alan is genuine - down-to-earth but ambitious."

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