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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 22, 2006

Shearer will forever be talk of the Toon

Alan Shearer assured himself of immortality on Tyneside when he moved ahead of Jackie Milburn as Newcastle's leading goalscorer of all time.

His 201st goal for the club against Portsmouth in February was the latest in a catalogue of landmarks for surely the greatest English striker of his generation.

He is far and away the leading scorer in the history of the Premiership, in which he has reached and passed the 250 mark, and has ranked as one of the best in the world during his career.

When he put off his retirement by a year in 2005, Shearer insisted the decision was not made with folk hero Milburn's record a consideration.

But it is fitting that a player who has carried the hopes of a success-starved club on his shoulders for so long has become, in statistical terms at least, the football-besotted city's most celebrated son.

But it could all have been so different had Ruud Gullit had his way.

The Dutchman was welcomed as a saviour at St James' Park when he replaced Kenny Dalglish at the helm in August 1998 and ushered in what was supposed to be the era of sexy football.

He later insisted many times he had never actually used the phrase, but it was not the only one to slip from his lips which was to return to haunt him.

Gullit had voiced the opinion before arriving in the north-east that the club had paid far too much money when they handed Blackburn £15million for Shearer, the man whose goals had helped them win the Premier League in 1995.

It was a view he has repeated and embellished since his own disastrous run-in with a man who has become a talisman for the city in which he grew up and learned his football.

Shearer, since the day in July 1996 when he returned to Tyneside as the most welcome of prodigals, has not only repaid his then world record transfer fee but repaid it over and over again.

And though his career has been ended prematurely this season with a knee injury, the man upon whom the hopes of the Toon Army still rest has given every last ounce of energy, fight and commitment to his unsuccessful quest to bring a trophy back to Gallowgate.

That is something which has not happened now for 36 years - Shearer was little more than a twinkle in his father's eye the day Bob Moncur lifted the 1969 Fairs Cup - and that has left a yawning chasm in the lives of the generations of supporters who have witnessed ever since a vain battle to end the famine.

Had the sheet-metalworker's son allowed the lure of silverware to take him to Manchester United on either of the two occasions he was courted by Sir Alex Ferguson, or accepted the overtures which came his way from Europe's big guns, his mantelpiece would now be groaning.

However, he insists he has no regrets about succumbing to the call of home.

'It's been a long time, without a doubt,' he said.

'But I would hate people to feel sorry for me because I've been happy, very happy. I'm living the dream here and that far outweighs trophies.'

It would be a mistake of epic proportions, however, to equate that sentiment with a lack of ambition.

Shearer's greatest pleasure in football was derived from scoring goals - something he continued to do with an impressive regularity until the end - and even better, goals which won matches.

Two seasons ago, having seen their hopes dashed by elimination from the Champions League, an inauspicious start in the league and defeat in the domestic cup competitions at the hands of West Brom and Liverpool, all hopes rested on the UEFA Cup.

Shearer was just about dead on his feet after contributing 28 more goals to the cause by the time Marseille ended that dream at the semi-final stage to leave him knowing time was fast running out for trophies to be won.

Under Graeme Souness last season, the Magpies initially showed signs of shrugging off their under-achievers label, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and UEFA Cup quarter-finals before surrendering meekly in both, heartbreakingly in Lisbon after establishing a 2-0 aggregate lead over Sporting.

Although he has already gained his initial coaching qualifications and continues to be tipped to one day take over the hot-seat at St James', his hunger for success remains as keen as ever.

'I've made my mind up and I've always said to myself I'd love to retire at the top,' he said.

'I realise how lucky and how fortunate I've been to have played all my football in the top league.'

Newcastle have been richly rewarded for their investment in Shearer over the years, but when his last lingering hopes of lifting a trophy were extinguished via FA Cup defeat by Chelsea, finishing his career in typical fashion - scoring goals - was the way he wanted to bow out.

His penalty which proved to be the winner against Sunderland ensured he scored in his final game but the anti-climatic manner of his farewell was as disappointing for the man himself as his dedicated worshippers.