Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Alan Shearer (15)

Goal.com continues to count the top 50 English players of all time today with Alan Shearer. Before becoming a television pundit and before managing Newcastle to relegation, Shearer was a deadly No. 9...
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence
No.29 - Ted Drake
No.28 - Michael Owen
No.27 - Raich Carter
No.26 - Colin Bell
No.25 – Frank Swift
No.24 - Paul Scholes
No.23 - Tony Adams
No.22 - Martin Peters
No.21 - Billy Wright
No.20 - Geoff Hurst
No.19 - Cliff Bastin

No.18 - Steven Gerrard

No.17 - Glenn Hoddle

No.16 - Bryan Robson

Alan SHEARER

Born

13/08/1970
Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

England

63 caps, 30 goals

Clubs

Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United



Later to become a legend in his own north east kingdom, Shearer was, of course, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – Gosford, specifically – in 1970, into a supportive working-class family. A midfielder initially, he progressed to Wallsend Boys Club in his teens, also turning out for Cramlington Juniors and the Newcastle boys team. He would soon become a deadly striker like his hero, Kevin Keegan. He subsequently interested Southampton, and his summers were spent training with the south coast outfit's youth side, with whom he penned a contract in 1986, amid fleeting interest from heroes Newcastle United.

A scout by the name of Jack Hixon was instrumental in finding opportunities for Shearer. Like everyone else who encountered the youngster, he was blown away by his maturity first and foremost.

Southampton youth coach David Merrington watched Shearer bang in the goals at youth and reserve level during his first two years at the club, and soon implored the senior team to make space for the prodigy. On April 9 1988, at the age of 17, Shearer was given his first opportunity at senior level, and took it in spectacular fashion. Coming in for the injured Danny Wallace, he scored after five minutes, eventually completing a hat-trick to help the Saints to beat Arsenal 4-2.

Still, despite becoming the youngest player to hit a top-flight treble, it wasn't until the 1990-91 season that Shearer enjoyed a full campaign, scoring 14 goals in 45 outings. Developing an understanding with Matt Le Tissier, Shearer emerged strongly and was the club's player of the year for 1991. Thus followed his first foray into the international scene: he scored seven in four games for England U-21s at the Toulon Tournament and was named the player of the tournament as England triumphed.

Shearer was top scorer at The Dell with 21 goals during 1991-92, and new manager Ian Branfoot was of course very reluctant to sell him. However, back up north, in the north west, there was strong interest from two clubs. Manchester United were heavily linked with the player, but it was ambitious Blackburn Rovers – with Ray Harford extolling the virtues of Shearer after coaching him in the England U-21 setup, and Kenny Dalglish at the managerial helm – who would sign him for £3.3 million plus a player.

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Graham Taylor had handed Shearer his first full England cap in February 1992, and he marked his debut with a goal against France. He then made the cut for Taylor's Euro '92 squad, but only featured once. In fact, his early time wearing the Three Lions wasn't exactly awe inspiring – he only featured sporadically as England failed to qualify for World Cup '94.

His first season with newly-promoted Blackburn, in 92-93, was marred by injury, but the next three seasons were stunning for Shearer, and the first two saw the Ewood Park side emerge as an unlikely Premier League force. In 93-94, sparked by Shearer's Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year worthy 31 goals in 40 games, Blackburn finished the season as runners-up to Man Utd. Blackburn were then crowned English champions in 94-95 as 'The SAS', Shearer and Chris Sutton, proved unplayable during the campaign, netting 34 and 15 respectively. This form, and the last-gasp title win, saw Shearer crowned the PFA Players' Player of the Year for 1995.

Next time around, the club finished in a more realistic seventh-place, despite Shearer's league-leading 31 goals in 35 games. However, he wasn't able to make much of an impact at Champions League level, or in the build up to Euro '96. Nevertheless, the hitman overcame an injury scare to take his place in Terry Venables' squad for the tournament, played on home soil.

Despite the stop-start nature of his England career to that point, by the end of the tournament Shearer would be on the lips of every football fan in Europe, and a number of huge clubs would be linked with his signature. Alongside that wily fox Teddy Sheringham, Shearer dominated Group A with a strike against Switzerland, another during that famous 2-0 win over Scotland, and a brace as Venables' troops demolished the Netherlands 4-1. He scored the first penalty as England edged past a lively Spain side in the quarter-finals. In the semis, he headed his side into the lead after three minutes, but fierce rivals Germany fought back and, although Shearer converted during the shoot-out again, Gareth Southgate's miss meant elimination.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT

Winning The Premier League

In July, although Man Utd again came close to landing his services, Shearer couldn't resist a then-world record £15 million move to heroes Newcastle United, managed by his idol, Kevin Keegan. The Magpies had risen from the depths of the First Division under 'King Kev' to mix it up with the Premier League big guns, Shearer arriving midway through the resurgence. The Toon finished second for a second successive season; Keegan walked out in January, although Shearer scored 25 to lead the scoring charts for the third time in a row, also bagging the PFA Player of the Year gong.

A succession of gaffers followed over the next decade: Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit - under whom Shearer became club captain, despite a reportedly frosty relationship - Sir Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness and Glenn Roeder.

Although Shearer would never win another league title, his place in footballing folklore was assured as a Magpie. He gave it his all: the darting runs and bullet headers; fiery performances on the pitch, punctuated by moments of ice-cool finishing and incredible prowess from the penalty spot; that celebration, right arm held aloft as he wheeled away towards the corner, always relishing a genuine connection with the St. James' Park faithful. They called him 'Big Al', they called him 'Super Shearer', and they never stopped worshipping their deadly No.9.

Running parallel, of course, was an international career which never quite reached the heights of '96. Glenn Hoddle handed Shearer the England armband in the lead-up to World Cup '98 - a tournament which also ended disappointingly. Shearer scored once as England survived the groups, but there was more penalty heartache at the hands of another bitter rival, Argentina. He appeared in one more tournament, Euro 2000, having scored his only international hat-trick against Luxembourg in qualifying. In France, he scored the only goal in a win over Germany, yet England crashed out ahead of schedule. Shearer retired from the scene, having tallied 63 caps - 34 as skipper - and 30 goals.

Concentrating on club football Shearer had a second wind, and went on to score nearly 80 goals between 2001 and 2006, establishing himself as the Premier League's best ever marksman with 260 strikes. Season 01-02 was also a big improvement for Newcastle, who finished fourth to achieve Champions League football. The Toon came back from the dead to progress past the first CL groups stage the next season, while they finished third in the league. Runs to the semi-finals and then the quarters of the UEFA Cup followed.

Between 2004 and 2006, Shearer twice went back on his decision to hang up his boots, eventually retiring after a testimonial match against Celtic.


HONOURS

Club Honours

Premier League Winner (1994/95, Blackburn Rovers)
Premier League Runner-up (1993/94, Blackburn Rovers; 1996/97, Newcastle United)
FA Cup Runner-up (1998 & 1999, Newcastle United)
Intertoto Cup Runner-up (2001, Newcastle United)
Le Tournoi Winner (1997, England)

Individual Honours

Euro '96 Golden Boot (5 goals)
Highest-ever Premiership goalscorer (260 goals)
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1995, 1997
Football Writers' Association Player of the Year: 1994
Inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame: 2004
Named by Pele as one of the 125 greatest living footballers
Included in the FIFA 100 list of the 'greatest living footballers'.
Awarded the OBE in 2001 for services to association football in the Queen's Birthday Honours List

DID YOU KNOW ... That 'Big Al' opened The Alan Shearer Centre in 2007, one of his many charitable pursuits.

Greg Ptolomey, Goal.com

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