Football: Shearer's touch of class

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. .1

Manchester City. . 0

JACK WALKER, Blackburn's benefactor, may come to regret his alleged remark that he intends to make Manchester United 'look cheap' but he and his manager, Kenny Dalglish, have already succeeded in making United look small-minded. At pounds 3.3m, Rovers' official transfer figure for Alan Shearer, the club seem to have the bargain of the season.

All transfer fees are relative to the value of the currency at the time; so are wages. The only way to assess Shearer's worth is to compare him with his contemporaries: he is already a more effective all-round player than Gary Lineker and in time could prove to be as consistent a scorer.

Shearer is much stronger than Lineker on the ball, far more powerful in the air, can shoot accurately from much longer distances and can work the midfield more successfully. He is not as quick as Lineker over 15 yards, but

probably faster over 35. However he certainly cannot steal away from his cover inside the box, as Lineker did so brilliantly. Yet a legitimate comparison can be made between the pair.

It may be that Walker would have topped whatever any club, including United, offered for Shearer, but for Old Trafford to suggest that the fee and emoluments were too much means they are not thinking big enough: Matt Busby never hesitated to break transfer records (as with Tommy Taylor, Albert Quixall, Denis Law) if he thought the player necessary to the team.

City's large travelling support had no doubt about Shearer's menace; almost every time he came within 25 yards of Tony Coton he was told to 'Eff Off', often in chorus, a sure sign of opposition respect.

Apart from the goal, made by Shearer, the contest was an indigestible mess. Both teams decided that the midfield was to be a minefield, an area of dispossession, and once the ball had been won it was booted upfield.

Blackburn did try to work the flanks and City put Rick Holden away a few times, but a crowd of just under 20,000 had little entertainment. So far the new rule preventing goalkeepers picking up the ball from a back pass has worked well and kept the game moving, but this match was the downside, the predictable response of pumping the ball like a mortar shell into the 25 yards behind the central defenders.

Michel Vonk and Kevin Moran, the two defenders most under pressure, were both lucky to escape without a booking for blatant fouls, and the Blackburn player might have given away a penalty.

The goal, however, was memorable: Shearer, with his back to Tony Coton, collected a long kick from Bobby Mimms and flicked the ball to his right. Newell, anticipating intelligently, was already at full speed. He cut between the central defenders and Andy Hill, sped in on the left of City's penalty area and drove powerfully past Coton.

Mimms then had to stretch to tip over from Hill and Quinn headed just wide of a post, but as Ripley hit the inside of a City post there could be no argument about the result.

Goal: Newell (69) 1-0.

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Wright (Price, 72), Sherwood, Hendry, Moran, Ripley, Atkins, Shearer, Newell, Dobson. Substitutes not used: Wegerle, Dickins (gk).

Manchester City: Coton; Hill, Brightwell, Simpson, Curle, Vonk, White, Sheron, Quinn, Holden, McMahon. Substitutes not used: Reid, Flitcroft, Margetson (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

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