Football: Shearer sparks invasion of Lincoln

He came, he played he scored. Simon Turnbull witnesses the debut
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The Independent Online
Lincoln had probably not seen an invasion of its like since the city's castle was stormed in 1644. The Shearer circus and the Toon Army, rather than the Civil War and the Roundheads, was the reason Sincil Bank was laid siege to last night.

A press box which usually attracts eight journalists to Third Division games, and with a capacity of 15, was too small to cope with demand when the world's most expensive fooballer actually got down to the business of kicking a ball.

Some 200 of us had been drawn to St James' Park on Tuesday, from as far afield as Tunisia and Russia, just to see Alan Shearer and to hear from his own lips that, yes, he was coming home to Tyneside. Such was the late rush to be at Lincoln City's humble but homely ground, Newcastle's morning newspaper, the Journal, and the man from the Shields Gazette who had broken the town's pounds 15m transfer story while covering Newcastle's tour of the Far East were informed that there was no room at the inn.

They were rescued when Freddie Shepherd, a member of the Newcastle board, arrived with two directors' box tickets which had been booked for the absent Sir John Hall.

Others were not so fortunate. There were 2,000 Geordies in the 10,069 sell-out crowd but another ticketless 2,000 outside who had stopped off en route to Wembley for Sunday's Charity Shield - presumably so they could say that they were there too, if not exactly in a position to see the great man in action.

Some considered themselves fortunate to buy tickets at four times face value. Others, having at least seen their new hero step off the team bus, repaired to the nearest hostelries which had been stocked in readiness with extra supplies of brown ale.

John Beck feared he might be joining them, to drown his sorrows, before the night was out. His Lincoln team, assembled at a cost of pounds 220,000, finished sixth from the foot of the Football League last season and he told the local paper yesterday he might start the potential mismatch with three goalkeepers. Just one proved sufficient, as the Imps restricted Newcastle's winning margin to 2-0.

Minus the Les Ferdinand, who was out with flu, Shearer took 18 minutes to fire his first shot for Newcastle. It was saved comfortably by Barry Richardson. Before half-time, however, the Lincoln goalkeeper, was beaten by his former colleague from the Cramlington juniors side of 1984. A handling offence gave Shearer the chance to score from the penalty spot.

As the ball hit the net, Paul Palmer applauded. When Lincoln's most celebrated sporting son had been presented to the crowd before kick-off Shearer broke from his warm-up to acknowledge the Olympic silver-medallist. "What is it about the Newcastle No 9 shirt," the swimmer asked his mates in the stand. The fact that Newcastle have had to hire someone to deal with Shearer's mountain of mail was part of the answer.

The second goal came from Philippe Albert, but for the watching hordes it was the scorer of the first, who completed the full 90 minutes, who remained the focus of attention.