Shearer de­light

Al’s de­but for New­cas­tle - at Lin­coln

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS - @AFoot­bal­lWriter

DID I ever tell you about the time I saw the world’s most ex­pen­sive foot­baller make his de­but at Sin­cil Bank, Lin­coln?

When Kevin Kee­gan agreed to pay Lin­coln City an ini­tial £400,000 to take youth team grad­u­ate Dar­ren Huckerby to St James’ Park in Novem­ber 1995, he also promised to bring his New­cas­tle United first team for a friendly the fol­low­ing sum­mer. Un­be­known to the Lin­coln board, it would prove to be an even bet­ter deal than the club had orig­i­nally bar­gained for.

Huckerby’s trans­fer took place in the mem­o­rable 1995/96 Premier League sea­son, when Kee­gan in­fa­mously cracked live on air with ‘I will love it if we beat them. Love it!’ Sadly, they didn’t, as the Mag­pies blew a 12point lead over Manch­ester United in the fi­nal months of the sea­son.

Still, a re­spectable run­ners-up fin­ish prompted Kee­gan to break the bank to sign Alan Shearer from Black­burn Rovers in a £15m deal. This broke the pre­vi­ous world record paid by AC Mi­lan for Gian­luigi Len­tini four years ear­lier. Huckerby, mean-

while, was limited to one sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ance for New­cas­tle and would later trans­fer to Coven­try City, where he would be­come one of the most promis­ing young­sters in English foot­ball.

True to his word, Kee­gan’s New­cas­tle ar­rived at Sin­cil Bank on Au­gust 9, 1996.

The na­tion’s me­dia and 200 jour­nal­ists from across the globe de­scended on the ground hop­ing to get a glimpse of Shearer, whose goals two months ear­lier had earned him the Euro 96 Golden Boot and almost ‘brought foot­ball home’.

The me­dia wouldn’t be dis­ap­pointed as Shearer started the match as New­cas­tle’s new num­ber 9 amongst what was a strong line-up for the vis­i­tors that fea­tured the likes of David Gi­nola, Peter Beard­s­ley and Rob Lee.

And 33 min­utes in, the sell-out crowd of 10,069 wit­nessed his­tory as Shearer marked his de­but with a goal from the penalty spot fol- low­ing Lin­coln’s Steve Holmes’ in­ex­pli­ca­ble hand­ball. Cue the trade­mark one arm raised cel­e­bra­tion that was so syn­ony­mous through­out Shearer’s ca­reer.

The cir­cum­stances were a far cry from that of Shearer’s pre­vi­ous goal, a third-minute opener in the semi-fi­nal of Euro 96 against Ger­many at Wem­b­ley.

De­fender Philippe Al­bert grabbed the game’s only other goal with a sec­ond half header. The re­sult wasn’t im­por­tant for cash-strapped Lin­coln though, who were said to earn a whop­ping £80,000 in gate re­ceipts alone. After the game Lin­coln man­ager John Beck praised Kee­gan for ful­fill­ing the fix­ture, de­spite it com­ing 48 hours be­fore New­cas­tle’s Char­ity Shield tie against Manch­ester United.

“It’s a guide­line as to the sort of man he is. He could quite eas­ily have can­celled or post­poned the game be­cause of the Char­ity Shield in a cou­ple of days’ time. But I think he re­alises this is where the foot­ball grass­roots are and it’s all due credit to the man him­self to bring his first team to lit­tle old Lin­coln,” said Beck.

New­cas­tle went on that sea­son to again fin­ish run­ners-up to Manch­ester United, al­beit never re­ally reach­ing the level of ex­cite­ment set in the pre­vi­ous year. Kee­gan re­signed mid­way through the sea­son, much to the shock of the Toon Army, stat­ing that he had taken the club as far as he could.

Shearer, how­ever, be­gan re­pay­ing the for­tune spent to se­cure his ser­vices, again fin­ish­ing as the league’s top scorer with 25 goals. As a re­sult, New­cas­tle se­cured Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

As time goes on, it’s hard to imag­ine such a de­but oc­cur­ring in this coun­try again. No English club has paid the world record trans­fer fee since Shearer’s move, with all of the last five records bro­ken by Real Madrid alone.

In ad­di­tion to that, the majority of the Premier League clubs spend their sum­mers play­ing friendlies abroad to please the lu­cra­tive Far East and Amer­i­can mar­kets, whilst send­ing out some form of an ‘XI’ against the lower league clubs back home.

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