Shearer determined to end wait for trophy

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The Independent Online

His manager, Sir Bobby Robson, whose defeat as England manager to Germany is one of the great examples of heroic failure in football, might not agree but Alan Shearer's statement that "nobody remembers losing semi-finalists" was from the heart.

His manager, Sir Bobby Robson, whose defeat as England manager to Germany is one of the great examples of heroic failure in football, might not agree but Alan Shearer's statement that "nobody remembers losing semi-finalists" was from the heart.

It is hard to understate just what tonight's Uefa Cup semi-final with Marseilles means to the Newcastle captain. As someone who sometimes walked to St James' Park to watch Kevin Keegan play, he is acutely aware that he was not born the last time the club won a piece of silverware. And every time he runs out at Old Trafford, the Stretford End reminds him of just what he gave up when he chose to return to Tyneside in the summer of 1996, the year he led England to another memorable, painful semi-final defeat to the Germans. The fervour he earned by doing so has to be set against the seven trophies he might have won had he accepted Alex Ferguson's offer to wear the No 9 shirt at Manchester United. Here, finally, is a chance to redress some of the balance.

"After being knocked out of the Champions' League [in a penalty shoot out by Partizan Belgrade], the players sat down, had a meeting and said the only way to get over that defeat was to win the Uefa Cup," Shearer said yesterday. "That situation has not changed."

While Robson, perhaps mindful of the demands he has made to the Newcastle board that the squad needs money spending on it in the summer, said he "could not separate his ambitions" of finishing in the fourth and final Champions' League qualifying place and winning the Uefa Cup, his captain was unequivocal.

"The Champions' League means a hell of a lot of money to this club but it's medals we're after," Shearer said. "We would like to change history for ourselves, for this football club and the fans. It has been far too long without a trophy, especially when you consider the size of the club. Instead of reading about other players doing it, we can do it ourselves."

Marseilles represent the toughest opposition Newcastle have met, stronger than PSV Eindhoven, who they beat in the quarter-finals. Robson would have preferred Internazionale, who Marseilles defeated to reach this stage, and Robson said the French played like no other team.

"They have three at the back, two holding midfielders and a big striker, [Didier] Drogba, who is supported by two forwards," Robson said. "Normally, supporting forwards play out wide but they form a little triangle with him." Liverpool, who came to grief in Marseilles in the fourth round, have given Newcastle tips about how to cope.

Given Newcastle's formid-able record at St James' Park, they should be favourites to achieve Robson's goal of winning the first leg, which would offer some protection from the "cauldron" they are likely to face in the return at the Stade Velodrome. However, Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and Jermaine Jenas, who offer them both pace and invention, will not play after the serious injuries they sustained in Sunday's goalless draw at Aston Villa. Even Lee Bowyer, who is now finally available to play his first game of European football after the ban imposed for his disgraceful stamping incident in Leeds' defeat by Malaga last season, is doubtful.

The other shadow hanging over Newcastle is cast by the two yellow cards Shearer - who has scored more goals in the Uefa Cup this season than any other player - has picked up. Another may see him suspended for the final. The similarities with Roy Keane's absence from Manchester United's finest hour in the European Cup final are all too obvious.

"Thank you for reminding me of it," Shearer smiled. "But I won't change my game, there's too much at stake. We are in the semi-final of the Uefa Cup. If we get booked, we have to face the consequences.It would be horrible to miss out, it wouldn't be nice but I can't afford to change my game or pull out of challenges. That's not in me or the other lads.

"We have to be fully committed and I hope I'm not sitting here in a year's time saying this was a trophy that we should have won."

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