Date of Birth: 13/08/1970
Height: 6 ft in 0
National Team: England
International Caps: 63
International Goals: 30
It stands as a testament to Alan Shearer’s superlative scoring record that no player in Premier League history – not even Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney or Sergio Aguero – has come close to reaching his Premier League tally since his retirement in 2006. His cause was helped by the fact that the Geordie wonder spent the entirety of his career in the top flight, scoring 283 goals in total, 23 of them before the First Division rebranded itself as the Premier League in 1992.
His overall tally is bettered only by the legendary Jimmy Greaves who scored 357 goals between 1957 and 1972. Needless to say, football was a different animal back then than it was in the heady days of Shearer’s pomp. That he managed to maintain a goals-per-game ratio of over 0.5 over 559 games is a truly stunning achievement.
Despite the vast swathes of remarkable data, Shearer often does not get the credit he deserves. Compare him to the all-time top scorers in Germany, Spain, Italy, and you see names such as Francesco Totti, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Silvio Piola and Gerd Muller. And yet, Shearer is rarely mentioned in the same breath. While he lacked some of the glamour of his peers, he goes toe-to-toe with them in terms of the statistics.
Perhaps his lack of prestige – in terms of discussion of ‘the greats’ of the global game – is down in part to his modest accumulation of trophies. Shearer won just one senior title in his 18-year career: the Premier League in 1995 with Blackburn Rovers. Of course, there were countless other individual honours; Shearer won the Premier League Golden Boot three times, the European Championship Golden Boot in 1996 and the PFA Player of the Year twice in ’95 and ’97 and came third in the 1996 Ballon d’Or.
But it is club honours which solidify a player’s place as an epoch-making athlete, and for Shearer, it was slim pickings. But it could have been so different. Shearer turned down a move to Manchester United in 1996, arguably his peak year as a player, to join Newcastle United. While Newcastle were challenging for the title and playing in Europe at the time, they were nowhere near the titan that was the Manchester club.
Manchester United had won three of the first four Premier League titles and, under the management of the magnetic Sir Alex Ferguson, were just a few years away from winning a famous treble. The Red Devils had the most promising crop of players coming through the ranks – latterly dubbed ‘the Class of 92’ – and would dominate English football the best part of the next 20 years, with Arsenal the only team to have the temerity to punctuate their supremacy.
Had Shearer joined Beckham, Neville, Scholes, Butt, Cantona, Giggs and company, there’s every chance that A) his goals tally would be even more impressive and B) that he would be considered part of the true pantheon of greats. As it was, Shearer had several highly impressive seasons at St James’ Park, but was unable to quite recreate the glory days of his time with Blackburn Rovers. Persistent injuries meant that his performances, and to some extent his game time, slumped in his later years as a professional.
Long before these final days, however, the sight of Shearer wheeling away in celebration with one arm held aloft after scoring a 20-yard piledriver or bullet near-post header was not etched in the footballing public’s psyche like it is now. He began his formative footballing years with Wallsend Boys Club, an amateur outfit near Gosforth in the North East of England, Shearer’s birthplace.
It was playing for Wallsend that he was scouted by Jack Nixon of Southampton. He was snapped up by the Saints’ academy in 1986, and he spent his summer months over the following two years training with their prestigious youth coaches. Shearer is one of a number of outstanding academy graduates to come from the club; others include Gareth Bale, Matt Le Tissier, Terry Paine, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
They were not the only team to come calling for the centre-forwards services though, with Manchester City and his hometown club Newcastle also showing interest. He decided, for whatever reason, that red and white stripes were a better option for him at that stage of his burgeoning career than black and white.
He made his debut in 1988 in a First Division loss to Chelsea. Barely a month into his senior career and Shearer, aged just 17, became the youngest ever player to score three goals in a First Division match, a record which stands till this day. He started as he meant to go on. Though he burst onto the scene with characteristic explosiveness, Shearer’s second season as a professional was less bombastic. He played ten times in 88-89, failing to score a goal in all competitions.
His next season too was relatively unproductive. He had become a more permanent fixture in the matchday squad, playing 35 times in all competitions, but had failed to reward manager Chris Nicholl’s faith with a sizeable return – he scored five times in total.
By the time of the 1990-91 season, Shearer was starting more games than not. He appeared 48 times in total with 36 appearances coming in the league. His 14 goals were enough that he was brought to national attention and dubbed as one of the most promising young English strikers in the game. With Gary Lineker just one year away from international retirement and with England looking to build on their successes at Italia ’90, this thrust Shearer into the international spotlight as well as the domestic. More on that later.
His game time progressing steadily, Shearer’s fifth and final season with the Saints saw him net 21 times in 60 appearances in all competitions. It was a record which put him on the radar of newly-minted Blackburn Rovers who had just been promoted to the Premier League and, under the ownership of Jack Walker, were looking to climb to the very top of the table.
Rovers enjoyed a superb season in their return to the top-flight, finishing in fourth place. Shearer was instrumental in this success, scoring 22 times in 26 games. Had the striker not struggled with injuries, it’s quite possible that Rovers would have finished even further up the table than they did – just one more point would have earnt them qualification of the UEFA Cup first round.
In the following campaign, both Shearer and his club improved on their performances from the previous season. With the aid of 34 Shearer goals in just 48 appearances, Rovers soared to 2nd place in the league and were quickly becoming the biggest challengers to Manchester United’s Premier League supremacy.
94-95 was the setting for Blackburn Rovers greatest triumph of the modern era: a Premier League title victory. The triumph was due in large part to the goals provided by the ‘SAS’ combination. Shearer made up this deadly duo with new signing Chris Sutton who, at the time, became the most expensive player in British transfer history. He scored 15 goals in addition to Shearer’s 34, making the two players one of the most potent attacking forces in Premier League history.
For months, Rovers were cruising in the Premier League. Their form was exceptional, and it seemed that there was no way they wouldn’t lift the trophy at the end of the season. However, just two wins in their last six games meant that the title nearly slipped out of their grasp. They lost to Manchester City and West Ham United before the final day of the season but knew that a win away at Liverpool would be enough for them to seal the title as they went into the final day with a two-point lead over challengers Manchester United.
But in one of the most dramatic conclusions to a Premier League season ever, both Manchester United and Rovers failed to take maximum points. Rovers lost 2-1 to Liverpool at Anfield but, because West Ham held Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to a 1-1 draw, celebrated winning the league title as the final whistle went. It was the undisputed apex of Shearer’s career.
Sadly, for Blackburn and for Shearer, the next season was nowhere near as fruitful. Rovers finished in 7th place and missed out on signings which could have helped cement their position at the top of the English game. Famously, Rovers’ owner Jack Walker once said “why would we need Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?” after turning down the chance to sign the Frenchman.
Shearer’s record in that season was almost identical to the title-winning campaign, playing one less game but scoring the same amount of goals. Had the rest of Kenny Dalglish’s squad been at his level, who knows what they could have achieved. Rovers were relegated not long after, by which time Shearer had chosen to leave Ewood Park.
He joined an aspirational Newcastle United at the start of the 96-97 seasons. The Magpies were fresh from the disappointment of having missed out on the title in the previous season having had a mammoth 12-point lead at Christmas. They hoped Shearer would provide them with the firepower which they had lost when leading man Andy Cole had left for Manchester United at the midpoint of the 94-95 season.
Shearer scored 28 times in his first season with the club as they again finished in 2nd place. The campaign saw Newcastle change managers, with Kevin Keegan leaving after five years at the helm. Shearer was reunited with Kenny Dalglish as he took the top job at St James’ Park.
From then on, Newcastle’s position at the top of the Premier League hierarchy began to slide. They finished in 13th place the following season. It was no coincidence that this corresponded with the goals drying up for Shearer – he scored just two in that campaign after being hampered by injuries and bad form. They did reach the FA Cup Final, however, though they lost to Arsenal at Wembley.
They finished in 13th again the following season. Shearer rediscovered his form, scoring 21 times in 40 appearances. For the rest of his career, the striker would just about maintain this goals-to-games ratio bar one season in 00-01 in which he again struggled with injuries.
Though Newcastle were not the force they once were, they still competed in Europe more often than not. In 03-04, they reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. This was about as close as Shearer ever got to adding a second trophy to his collection.
Shearer retired at the end of the 05-06 season. In total, he scored 379 career goals in 734 games and will be remembered as one of the great goalscorers of the modern era.
Though Alan Shearer won just one major honour at club level, he was also victorious in the prestigious Toulon tournament in 1991, a competition for international under-21 teams held annually in France. All in all, Shearer played 11 times for the England Under-21s, scoring 13 times. Not exactly a bad record.
He made a single appearance for the England B team before making his senior debut in 1992, scoring a goal in a 2-0 victory over France. He was used sparingly over the next two years. The striker really made his mark on the international stage at Euro 96, widely considered one of the high points for England since the World Cup victory in ’66.
Shearer scored in the opening match, a 1-1 draw with Switzerland. He netted again in the 2-0 victory over Scotland before adding a third and fourth in a 4-1 rout over the Netherlands. Shearer played a significant part in the knockout rounds too. He scored a penalty in the shootout victory over Spain in the quarter-finals before scoring a 3rd-minute goal in the 1-1 match with Germany, with England’s opponents going on to win on penalties.
Germany would beat the Czech Republic in the final. Though it may have seemed a missed opportunity at the time, the tournament is thought of fondly in the psyche of England’s footballing public. Shearer scored two goals in the ’98 World Cup, a group stage strike against Tunisia and an equaliser against Argentina in the first knockout round. England would ultimately go on to lose the game, again on penalties. It would be Shearer’s only chance at a World Cup.
He retired from the international game not long after having scored 30 goals in 63 appearances, a record which makes him the joint-7th England scorer of all time.
Where is Alan Shearer Now?
As one of the most recognisable faces in the game, Shearer will be familiar to most readers as a regular pundit on Match of the Day. He began punditry immediately after his playing career finished.
Shearer had a brief spell as interim manager of Newcastle United at the end of the 08-09 season. He joined the Magpies as they were threatened by relegation after illness meant Chris Hughton – who was already a caretaker manager in place of Joe Kinnear – was taken ill. Shearer was unable to save the club from relegation in his seven games in charge, and Newcastle United were subsequently consigned to the Championship. Shearer has not returned to coaching since.
As well as his TV work, Shearer is the patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity set up in honour of Shearer’s manager and mentor at Newcastle United. He also represents other charities such as the NSPCC and UNICEF.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Alan Shearer
Geordie Legend: as a club icon, Shearer is an honorary Freeman of Newcastle upon Tyne and has a statue of himself outside his beloved St James’ Park.
The Hard Questions: Shearer starred in a 2017 documentary, Dementia, Football and Me, created for the BBC. The programme chronicles Shearer, one of the best headers of the ball in his time as a player, and his investigation into links between repeated headed contact with the ball and dementia.