If any team in England requires a monument to a bygone era then it is Newcastle United, as the famous Gallowgate club continues its quest for a first domestic trophy in half a century. This season, more than any other, has illustrated just why the Magpies must refer to history in order to justify their reputation as a major Premiership force.
However, after a week which saw Graeme Souness inducted into Newcastle's "Hall of Infamy", taking his place alongside the likes of Jack Charlton, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit, there was much to cheer those preparing to open the museum's doors to the Geordie public.
It is a happy coincidence that the boots worn by Alan Shearer on Saturday now demand top billing in a display dedicated to Newcastle's greatest goalscorers following his record-breaking 201st club goal. In surpassing Jackie Milburn's double century, he reminded everyone that the good times have never altogether ceased on Tyneside. Shearer would accept his decade in black and white has been far from a resounding success but many of his finer finishes have provided the outstanding highlights of the past 10 years.
Newcastle were already 1-0 up, through a Charles N'Zogbia goal before half-time, when Newcastle's captain slid Shola Ameobi's neat flick beyond the excellent Dean Kiely, who saved Portsmouth from a humiliating defeat. The celebration which followed was, in itself, worthy of a giant montage in the new museum.
"They were great to me the day I arrived on that stage at the Leazes End but the reception I got out there on Saturday will live with me forever. It was something special. It really was," said Shearer.
The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, the man who sanctioned the Gosforth-born striker's £15m move to St James' Park, had every right to take more pleasure than most in the goal which restored the feel-good factor to Tyneside.
"It's probably been the worst week in my life but at least it ended well," said Shepherd, before revealing he would step up the search for Souness's successor this morning. "You couldn't have written the script."
Shepherd's own reputation had suffered a potentially crippling dent in the aftermath of Graeme Souness's dismissal so soon after his unpopular appointment, but a chairman under pressure accepted his mistake.
"Graeme never clicked with the Newcastle fans," Shepherd added. "I like Graeme and I got on well with him, but it's vitally important that the new manager is popular."
Souness always insisted he never moved to Tyneside with the express aim of topping the popularity polls. Neither did Shearer, but there has never been a more revered Newcastle No 9. If the club museum does not intend to sell "201 not out" T-shirts to its first day customers, then the staff will surely be missing a trick.
Goals: N'Zogbia (41) 1-0, Shearer (64) 2-0.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Boumsong, Bramble, Babayaro; Solano (Dyer, 74), Parker (Clark, 86), Emre (Bowyer, 74), N'Zogbia; Shearer, Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Elliott.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Kiely; Griffin (Pamarot, 46), Primus, O'Brien, Taylor; Routledge (Todorov, 46), Davis (Diao, 76), Mendes, O'Neil; D'Alessandro, Mwaruwari. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Karadas.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancs).
Booked: Portsmouth Griffin.
Man of the match: Shearer.
Attendance: 51, 627.
Alan Shearer v Milburn
* Alan Shearer (1996-date)
League 286 (8) games; 143 goals. FA Cup 35 (0); 21. League Cup 15 (1); 7. Europe 49 (0); 30.
Total 385 starts 201 goals.
* Jackie Milburn (1946-57)
League 353; 177. FA Cup 44; 23. Other: 2; 1 (not in total).
Total 397 games 200 goals.
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