Ken Jones: Eriksson would be wise to ignore Shearer's superb form

Of all the sights available to sports watchers last weekend, live or on television, none was more startling in its suddenness than Alan Shearer's winning strike for Newcastle United against Chelsea at St James' Park. Taking a pass with his back to goal, Shearer then turned to send an unstoppable drive from 30 yards into the roof of Chelsea's net. Described by Claudio Ranieri as the sort of effort that defies the most ordered defensive attentions, it was Shearer's 28th goal of the season, a tally that might have seen him elected Footballer of the Year but for the electrifying contribution Thierry Henry has made to Arsenal's success in the Premiership.

Even in his 33rd year, Shearer continues to play with such muscular effectiveness that the idea of persuading a last international hurrah at this summer's European Championship inevitably gathers pace. Since it has not been publicly dismissed by Sven Goran Eriksson, and there are three weeks before the announcement of his squad, we are bound to hear more.

As events have proved, Shearer's decision to retire from international football after the Euro 2000 finals was a wise one. Relieved of the responsibility he bore as England's talismanic centre-forward, and lifted by Sir Bobby Robson's enthusiasm, Shearer's declining years in the game have been memorable. Adamant that his international career is a thing of the past he is unlikely to be tempted.

Whether it would work is another matter. Shearer is a throwback in the sense that he represents a style of play at centre-forward more familiar 30 years ago than it is today; more Nat Lofthouse than Henry. The bullying tactics that continue to serve Shearer well in the Premiership went against him in the 1998 World Cup finals. Referees proved less tolerant and defenders were not so easily lured into physical confrontation.

Then there is the fact that Shearer's partnership with the then teenage Michael Owen never really worked. Indeed, finding someone who can dovetail with Owen remains as much of a problem for Eriksson as it is for the Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, who has tried a number of permutations without coming up with anything permanent. Providing Owen with opportunities to exploit his predatory instincts is fine in theory but his all-round contribution is rarely significant. "Owen is not easy to play with," the television pundit Andy Townsend said last weekend.

The talk about Shearer set me thinking. Before England met Poland at Wembley in 1973 for a place in the following year's World Cup finals, Sir Alf Ramsey considered seriously the idea of recalling Geoff Hurst, the hero of 1966 who had dropped out of international football two seasons earlier. Hurst, by then with Stoke City, had impressed Ramsey in a match against Arsenal at Highbury.

"Hurst's movement off the ball was superior to that of any other attacker we had available and I was close to putting him in," I recall Ramsey saying. "In the end I decided that it wouldn't be fair to burden him with the responsibility." A 1-1 draw, notable for numerous wasted opportunities and one famous defensive blunder, put paid to England's chance of qualifying and cost Ramsey his job.

In any case, international comebacks, especially at a late career stage, are not a good idea. Pele knew this in 1974 when coming under pressure to turn out in a fifth World Cup for Brazil. In view of that unique possibility I travelled to meet Pele, who was playing out his last season for Santos. During the four or five days I spent there he was summoned to meet the president of Brazil who pleaded for him to turn out in the finals in West Germany. Pele was steadfast in his refusal. There was no accurate measure of what he might be able to achieve but he knew it was over. "At my age [he had just turned 34] it is asking too much," he said. He also knew he would be expected to carry a team that had slipped from the glorious standards of 1970.

During all this, I imagine readers have in their minds images of Shearer's relentless pursuit of goals, the anxiety he strikes into defenders with his aggression, powerful shooting and aerial prowess. When you consider his career-threatening injuries, his zest for the game is remarkable. Shearer makes few demands on the audience; it has never been necessary to probe for hidden qualities in his game or appreciate some subtle role in the tactical scheme of things; he remains, quite simply, a pugnacious attacker whose scoring could secure the Uefa Cup for Newcastle and fourth place in the Premiership.

Unlike Roy Keane, who has chosen contentiously to renew his international career, Shearer's decision to retire from the national team appears irreversible. As any member of the Toon Army will say, it was a step in the right direction.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride