Alan Shearer is not a man prone to emotional outbursts but Newcastle United's relegation crunch match against Portsmouth at St James' Park tonight has provoked Shearer to declare: "It will be the most important game these players have played for Newcastle and I suppose from my point of view as well – without question. There is a real opportunity for a group of players or an individual to make a real name for themselves so that in 10 or 15 years' time someone may be talking about this situation."
As fresh rumours surface regarding the future ownership of the club, Shearer knows the historic nature of Newcastle's predicament. They are second-bottom in the Premier League, four points off safety and go to Liverpool on Sunday. Newcastle have taken one point from Shearer's three games in charge and the 38-year-old did not spurn comparisons with a famous game from April 1992, also at St James', also against Portsmouth and also in a relegation battle.
Newcastle were 22nd in the old Second Division then, sandwiched between Oxford United and Port Vale, when David Kelly delivered a goal at the Gallowgate End that clinched a 1-0 win and is cherished on Tyneside.
Shearer was scoring the winner for Southampton that day against Oldham Athletic but said: "I read all the [Kelly] stories and reports though."
Portsmouth were also the opposition when Shearer broke Jackie Milburn's scoring record for Newcastle three years ago and Shearer hopes these are omens that will encourage Obafemi Martins, Mark Viduka or Michael Owen to score the goals they so need. Owen has not scored at St James' since 10 January.
All three forwards are likely to start against a Portsmouth side on 37 points and who face Arsenal next. Alan Smith, who performed well as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last weekend, is another probable starter.
It is the first of three home games for Newcastle, the others are against Middlesbrough and Fulham, and Shearer thinks all three must be won if Newcastle are to survive.
Newcastle have parted company with club doctor, Ian McGuinness, a significant development as it illustrates the authority given to Shearer by owner Mike Ashley: a temporary manager has terminated the employment of a permanent staff member.