Shearer ready for emotional farewell

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The Independent Football

Alan Shearer will walk out at St James' Park tonight to receive the supporters' acclaim for the last time as a Newcastle United player.

The 35-year-old may be able to do little else than kick off his testimonial game against Celtic because of the knee injury which ended his career three weeks early, but that will have little bearing on the reception he will get as a decade at the club draws to a close.

Shearer has scored 206 goals for Newcastle. The fact they have not also yielded a single winner's medal is a disappointment, but the knowledge he has spent the better part of his professional career playing for his home-town club is a great consolation.

"I would just say to look at every kid in every playground in the North-east and the joy they get when they score a goal," he said. "I'm exactly the same.

"This has been my playground for the last 10 years. The only difference is, there have been 52,000 there and the noise they make when I've scored a goal or whatever, it's just been incredible.

"It's been a great 10 years. Whenever anyone says to you 'Enjoy it because time flies by', I can endorse that because it seems like two or three months ago that I was walking in here and going towards the Leazes End and there were 17,000 or 18,000 there watching me sign."

Shearer, a then world record £15m signing from Blackburn in July 1996, kicked the final ball of his career in the 4-1 derby victory at Sunderland last month when a collision with Julio Arca resulted in knee ligament damage which sidelined him for the last three games of the season.

No one during the last 10 years has scored more goals for the club than Shearer in any season, and that includes at least two in which he has missed much of the campaign through injury.

Such has been his influence that the club's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, asked him to assist Glenn Roeder when the former West Ham manager was appointed caretaker manager back in February, and he is desperate for him to remain part of the staff at St James' Park.

Discussions over an ambassadorial role as Shearer prepares for his first break from football in almost two decades are ongoing. "This will always be my football club - it always has been," he said. "When I was at school, I used to come and pay here and watch my heroes, so whatever, the club will always be with me and be part of me.

"Wherever I am in the world, it will always be the first result, obviously, that I'll look out for.

"But as for severing my ties, it will never leave me."

Shearer was a ball-boy on the day that the Toon Army said their farewells to another hero, Kevin Keegan, in 1984, and the atmosphere promises to be every bit as charged. "It will be an emotional night. I'm sure it will be," he said. "I'm not really the emotional type, but I think I'm going to have to get ready for Thursday.

"When you look at it, it's fairy-tale stuff, I suppose. I remember it well when I was here as a ball-boy for Kevin's testimonial and he was flown away in the helicopter. I don't think I'm going to be flown away in a helicopter!

Across the North-east Kevin Ball has returned to his academy post at Sunderland, admitting that he would love to manage the first team on a permanent basis.

Ball ended his 10-game spell as caretaker manager on Sunday as his side slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa. "If I go back in there as manager, I go back in there," he said. "If someone new comes in, then so be it. If I'm asked to be the figurehead for a certain amount of time over the close season, then we will talk about that. "I've certainly enjoyed it and I'd loved the role on a permanent basis, whether it be short-term or long-term."

Ball's chances could depend largely on the fortunes of the Niall Quinn-led consortium who are set to make a takeover bid. Quinn has been thought to favour a high-profile appointment.