Monday, 13 April 2009

Shearer's Poison Chalice

Making bold predictions always seems to leave you prone to the pundits curse, case in point, see my glowing review of Aston Villa "Breaking the Mold", which coincided with a dismal run of 6 games without a win for Martin O'neill's team.

So, despite the curse crippling my literary confidence, I think Alan Shearer's return to Newcastle as manger was not only prematurely timed, but will leave the Toon army scrapping in the Championship next season. However, this is one prediction that I will be happy to see proved wrong, come the end of May when the Premier League issues next season passes.

At some point, it was inevitable that Alan Shearer would return to St James's Park as Manager much to the delight of his adoring fans. Every time Newcastle dispose of a Manger, which if we are honest happens on a regular basis, Shearer's name crops up almost as frequently as the famous one handed goal salute we were all so a custom to seeing.

In the past when ever these rumours of a return of the Newcastle legend began to circulate, they were usually met with denial from Shearer, stating a lack of experience and it not being the right time. Maybe Shearer just wanted to wait until the most difficult challenge came up, before he started swigging from the poison chalice. Should his interim appointment prove successful, it will have to rank with the greatest personal achievements Shearer has to date.

Prior to Newcastle's crunch game with Stoke, significant interest was given to Michael Owen starting the match. Shearer revealed that Newcastle's strikers could not feed on scraps, an eating disorder he was all to eager to avoid in his playing days. However, it is the defensive fragility's that have left Newcastle hungry and in the drop zone, which need the most of his attention. Concentrating on the inclusion of a nearly fit Owen, I assume was a topic he naturally found familiarity in.

Unfortunately for Newcastle, it took only 30 minutes at the noisy Britannia Stadium, for their defense to be exposed once again, after a corner left former Newcastle player Abdoulaye Faye, wide open to head home for the potters. The man assigned to mark Faye? Newcastle striker, Shola Ameobi. Even if you are a striker by nature, anyone can see the criminal amount of space Faye was left to stroll in to and nod home, would have the defensive coaching staff exchanging guilty looks, and no feasible explanation.

Shearers coaching staff, which consists of Colin Calderwood, Iain Dowie and former caretaker manager Chris Hughton all adorned with an ear piece and microphone headset, closely resembled a make shift Take That tribute band, that have all the gear and no idea. Shearer will obviously need all the experience and support he can get, but his backroom staff will need to be whispering defensive solutions, and tactics which are not as one dimensional as long ball, hit and hopes to 5ft 8in Michael Owen- not "Relight my Fire" lyrics.

To give credit to Shearer, he did drop defender Coloccini, in favour of Canadian David Edgar, and in the second half, Newcastle slowly began to chip away at the vulnerable 1-nil lead, Stoke were protecting. And, Shearer later demonstrated signs of tactical astuteness when he brought on substitute Andy Carroll. A powerful centre forward in a similar mold as Shearer himself, repaid his managers faith with a superb looping header, to salvage a crucial point for the traveling Geordies . Shearer wanted 3 points, a tall order given that Stoke have won 8 of their home games, a feat only bettered by the big four, but a single point is a welcome consolation, give the devastating consequences a defeat would have brought.

Shearer's appointment has been a great PR exercise, and has no doubt given a much needed moral boast to fans and players alike. His managerial skills will be put to the test over the next few weeks, and maybe he will use the time to prove the errors in my judgment, and justify that this was the best time to jump in to the hot seat. If he manages to keep Newcastle in the Premier League, he will once again been hailed as the home town hero, and if he fails who would hold a grudge against him, as much of the damaged was done long before his arrival. Either way his legendary status will be left untainted, and Joe Kinnear's hospital discharge, left pending.

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