By Frank Malley,
They can start forging another statue to go alongside that of Wor Jackie Milburn on the streets of Newcastle and outside St James’ Park.
They can set Alan Shearer, ‘only a sheet-metal worker’s son from Newcastle’, in bronze or stone, or how about unrelenting cast iron after he became the greatest goalscorer in Geordie history when he broke Milburn’s record of 200 goals for the club?
In a century’s time, you can guarantee supporters who worship the men who play in the number nine shirt, will still be rubbing those cast-iron boots.
‘He is the greatest centre forward England has ever had,’ was the verdict of former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness.
‘He scores every type of goal imaginable. He really is a phenomenon. He sets an example to everyone at our club, which is why I so badly wanted him to extend his career.’
All that is true.
So much so that, with confirmation that Shearer’s playing career has been ended three games earlier than expected or hoped for by a knee ligament injury suffered against Sunderland last week, he might also be remembered as the last of football’s old-fashioned strikers.
There are sizeable chunks of Nat Lofthouse and Tommy Lawton in Shearer, a bit of Bob Latchford and Joe Royle, too, as well as a lot of Wor Jackie and a dash of Roy of the Rovers.
Like all the above Shearer scored goals by the sackful – 43 at Southampton, 130 at Blackburn and 30 in 63 games for England to go with the 206 he has plundered on Tyneside.
‘The older you get, the more you appreciate scoring goals. You certainly never lose the feeling it gives you,’ he said.
But Shearer provided something else, too. At a time when the bad behaviour of the nation’s children routinely is linked to copying their role models on a Saturday afternoon, Shearer in the main has been the honest face of English football.
The joke might be that he celebrates a hat-trick by going home to do the hoovering but Shearer also reminds us that football does not have to be the preserve of the brainless and the uncouth.
It is not obligatory to drink to excess, change hairstyles three times a week, wear the latest jewellery or smother yourself in tattoos. Not in Shearer’s world.
On his planet there is still room for standards of honesty and loyalty on and off the pitch.
How many other players would have turned down the offer of unlimited trophies and cash to match at Old Trafford in favour of a transfer from Blackburn to his hometown club?
Shearer did and Sir Alex Ferguson has never really forgiven him.
Kevin Keegan, the man who presided over that £15million transfer, a British record at the time, will never forget him.
‘Everything about Shearer made him worth the money,’ declared Keegan in his autobiography.
‘His goals, his character, his ability, the fact that he is a winner. When you see him run out with the team the whole side looks so much better.
‘He is a leader of men, as Glenn Hoddle quickly spotted when he made him England captain.
‘Having worked with him I am more convinced than ever that he is a special player. Strangely, he doesn’t always impress that much in training, but then neither do the great racehorses on the gallops. The moment the match starts it is a different matter.’
It is why there was a national campaign for him to return to the England side for the last World Cup. Most would have been pressured into reconsidering. Shearer wasn’t, because he was convinced the beach that summer was best for himself, his exhausted body and, of course, his club.
Single-minded. Determined. A bickerer, a serial moaner, as linesmen and referees up and down the land know only too well.
Too aggressive at times, too, as Neil Lennon’s head and former team-mate Keith Gillespie’s jaw could attest.
Just earlier this season we were treated to a Carling Cup television rant from Shearer, sporting a fat lip following a flying elbow from Grimsby defender Justin Whittle.
‘It would have been easy for me to go out there and stick one on him because that is what I wanted to do,’ said Shearer.
‘He has done me, it was blatant. The referee was five yards away and he did nothing.’
It was a whinge of international proportions. But then Shearer has always been frustratingly unwavering in press interviews and never afraid to challenge authority.
Former manager Sir Bobby Robson discovered the dark side of the black-and-white hero after leaving him out against Valerenga in the UEFA Cup, ostensibly to give his aching limbs a rest.
Shearer was not amused, Norwegian part-timers being the perfect meat and drink to satisfy his goal hunger.
The point is Shearer is a man with get-up-and-go who has got up and stayed at the club he has always supported.
Just about the only time he has wavered is when they pleaded with him to postpone his retirement.
Just one more season. Not one which has increased Shearer’s haul of major silverware, which stands at a meagre one Premiership title won with Blackburn.
But one which has ensured his place in Tyneside immortality.
Start Building Shearer Statue
By Frank Malley,