Sunday service preaches the word of Shearer

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The Independent Online
Simon Turnbull pays homage to a pounds 15m man taking Newcastle to new heights

It is not quite true to say Newcastle United have not had a major trophy to parade for 27 years. Less than 11 weeks have passed since the pounds 15m prize that eluded Alex Ferguson was unveiled in black and white on a stage erected in the Leazes End goalmouth at St James' Park.

When, on that August afternoon, Alan Shearer informed us he was only "a sheetmetal worker's son from Newcastle", it was tempting to add the reminder that the cobwebbed trophy cabinet inside the Milburn Stand had not welcomed a tin pot of any significance since the year man first set foot on the moon. Glancing beyond the world's most expensive footballer, 10 giant inflatable Brown Ale bottles could be seen blocking the Gallowgate End goal. It crossed the mind that Kevin Keegan's great pretenders might need to shore up things at the other end before savouring a cup-winning coronation.

By tea-time yesterday such negative thoughts had been banished from the minds of the congregation occupying the home pews at St James' Sunday service. Their prayers had been answered. Chants of "Shearer turned you down" had been replaced by the taunt, "What's it like to be outclassed?" The silence in the red and white pocket of St James' Park told you last season's Double winners were not only goalless but on the suffering end of their heaviest defeat against Newcastle since 1929, when Hughie Gallacher scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.

Manchester United's fate would probably have been sealed before the break had Shearer's most eye-catching contribution to the first 45 minutes, a 35-yard thunderbolt from the blue, not smacked off the base of Peter Schmeichel's right-hand post. Newcastle's No 9 simply shrugged his shoulders and got on with another day as the pounds 15m man at the office. For a hour and a quarter he was an archetypal English captain of industry. Then, inevitably, he went on strike.

Shearer's goal, his eighth for his new club and Newcastle's fourth of the day, showed his value. His raking pass from the left wing was an open invitation to Beardsley but when the veteran and then Ferdinand passed up their chances, he ghosted in at the near post to side-foot his reward.

That the sheetmetal worker's son is much more than a goal-poacher was evident from the moment he clocked on, by taking the kick-off, to the moment he clocked off to collect the man of the match champagne. He never stopped grafting, whether it was toiling to slip the shackles of his one- time Blackburn colleague David May or drifting wide to prove his worth as a provider.

That he did, two minutes after the hour, delivering the right-wing cross which provided Les Ferdinand's goal. The dagger had been driven from directly in front of the Manchester United fans and Shearer could not resist rubbing a salty jig of delight to their deepening wounds.

It was not his first assist, either. It was a Shearer header that teed up Darren Peacock for the opener. It might have been different if Shearer had actually caught Flight 5060 from Manchester to Milan in July. As it was, he could savour the pleasure of urging the high-flying Magpies to keep their feet on ground. "It was sweet revenge for the Charity Shield," Shearer said. "But it only means three points. We won't be getting excited."

Perhaps not. As he spoke, however, his fellow Geordies were dancing on the steps outside St James' Park. The trophy Kevin Keegan prised from Blackburn clearly requires no polishing.

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