Shearer in mood to deliver

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The Independent Online
In one corner of the stewards' room at Sincil Bank, Lincoln City's luminous-coated helpers formed an orderly queue to collect the pounds 10 note and the two pounds 1 coins slapped into their palms by two security guards. In the opposite corner, John Beck thanked Kevin Keegan for the estimated pounds 100,000 windfall Newcastle United's appearance on Friday night, and Alan Shearer's debut, had earned the club that finished sixth from the foot of the Football League. "Without it I wouldn't be able to run the club this season," he said.

The Imps might even be flush enough to afford the luxury of an overnight stay before their season opens at Torquay on Saturday. For Keegan, having spent his pounds 15m, the flush of success would not be regarded as a luxury in the campaign ahead. As he told hospital radio, while the last of the stewards collected their pocket money: "We need some silverware now."

With the exception of the second-class First Division trophy, the cobwebs were last cleared in St James' Park's antique trophy cabinet the night in December 1974 that Sir Alf Ramsey handed the Texaco Cup to Pat Howard. That is why even the charitable piece of silverware up for grabs at Wembley this afternoon would be welcomed on Tyneside. The Geordies would turn out in their thousands just to see the glint of it; after all, 15,000 of them stood in the drizzle merely to hear their managerial messiah and their new No 9 talk of winning trophies last Tuesday.

Keegan, however, was reluctant to parade with the First Division trophy three years ago. There will be no open-topped bus ride until Keegan's dream team have something more valuable than the Charity Shield to display. As he put it, tongue in cheek: "I get something for every trophy we win but I don't know if the Charity Shield is in my contract. I'll have to have a look."

Having claimed the pounds 15m summer trophy Alex Ferguson wanted, Keegan embarks on Newcastle's latest season of great expectations markedly more at ease than he was when his rival launched his psychological offensive at the crucial stage of the Premiership battle last season. "I don't feel under extra pressure because we've signed Alan," he said. "I feel a lot more relaxed about this season having got a player of his quality."

Just how relaxed was made clear by his laughing response to the grenade lobbed from Old Trafford in advance of the new campaign. Asked about Ferguson's insistence that Newcastle, with Shearer, had to be favourites for the Premiership, Keegan said: "He's a crafty old so-and-so. It's exactly what I would say if I had just won the Double. Please God he's proved right."

The Newcastle manager even joked about the 1974 Charity Shield, when he lost his shirt after Billy Bremner made him lose his rag. "I was young and foolish then," he said. "Now I'm old and foolish." The last time he was at Wembley, he added, "was to watch the dogs. That's what keeps the place going. With the money me and Terry McDermott have invested it should be going for years." The last time Keegan clocked on for work at Wembley, in fact, was 23 February, 1982. As England captain, he headed in a Trevor Francis cross in a 4-0 win against Northern Ireland. The jesting may continue until the Premiership campaign, which opens for Keegan and Shearer at Everton on Saturday. The new boy scored his customary debut goal, albeit from the penalty spot, in the 2-0 win at Lincoln on Friday but may have to wait until Tuesday night, and Newcastle's final warm-up match against Anderlecht in Brussels, before combining for the first time with Les Ferdinand, who could be absent because of flu again this afternoon.

Newcastle have not beaten Manchester United away from St James' Park (except on penalties in the Ibrox pre-season tournament two years ago) since a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford seven days after the humiliation inflicted by Ronnie Radford's screamer at Hereford in February 1972. "Sunday will be a different proposition for you," the Lincoln hospital radio man suggested to Keegan. "Not really," he replied. "They both play in red, and they both play good football."

The impish grin told you that Keegan was in the mood for another crack at the Red Devils.

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