ALAN Shearer does not have anything left to prove. The record books speak for him, his place in the history of English football is already assured, his status as a Newcastle United legend guaranteed.
Shearer turned 40 this year and, as with any landmark birthday, the former Newcastle and England skipper has taken the chance to assess his life and, with it, where his career should be heading.
Four years after he retired as a player, sent out to pasture with a hero’s triumph at St James’ Park, he is both content with what he has achieved and comfortable with the life he now has. Few could ask for more.
Yet, for all of his happiness as a pundit at the BBC, for all of his satisfaction at what he has achieved, Shearer remains unsatisfied. There is a thirst for competition unquenched, a lust for battle undiminished. It is a longing for a return to day-to-day football that will simply not disappear.
“I could sit on my reputation as a player for the rest of my life, but as great as that was and is, I won’t let that affect my decision-making,” said Shearer, who combines his BBC role with a similar position with Al-Jazeera television and his work as a patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
“When I was playing it was great, but it’s still within me that I want to give it another crack at management. I would like to keep on challenging myself, it’s just the way I am.
“It’s the way I always have been. After 20 years as a player, I’m used to a challenge, the excitement, the adrenaline. I honestly don’t think I have a choice, I will always crave that.”
But why would someone who lives in a magnificent family home near Ponteland, with enough money to maintain a lavish lifestyle and a prominent role on television to preserve celebrity status, want to go to work in such a tempestuous profession?
Football management is always precarious, but it has been downright cruel this winter, and even managers who appear to be doing a good job can be treated with disdain.
Shearer said: “I don’t know if what has happened to Chris (Hughton) and Sam (Allardyce) has put me off, probably not.
“It’s just a case of, if the right one comes along, I’ll be interested. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“I loved my time at Newcastle, I loved those eight games despite what happened. If you’re in football, it is like a drug. I love the game, and if the right job offer comes along, definitely.
“My friends do tell me I’m crazy for wanting to get back into management. There isn’t any long-term security, do I need the hassle? But I do. I love it. I miss the highs and lows of winning and losing.
“It’s horrible when you lose, the suffering, but you have to have that to appreciate the good times. Newcastle ended badly, but there is part of me that wants to have another crack at management.
“I won’t lose any sleep if that right job offer doesn’t come, but I’m looking and I’m waiting.” When Hughton went earlier this month there was a brief suggestion Shearer could return to a job he filled for eight weeks, failing to stop the club falling out of the Premier League before falling out with United owner Mike Ashley (pictured right) and managing director Derek Llambias.
Shearer has not spoken to either man since and neither does he want to. As long as they remain in charge at St James’s Park, Shearer will never return to work for the club he loves.
He added: “I had eight tremendous weeks at Newcastle as manager, it’s a football club I love, but I don’t suspect I will be back very soon, if ever.
“It won’t happen for a long time as things stand, and I don’t lie awake at night dreaming about becoming Newcastle manager again. You have to move on.”
Instead, Alan Pardew has become the latest to try and satisfy the demands of Newcastle’s unpredictable owner, while simultaneously trying to unlock the potential of a club which, according to Shearer, remains one of English football last saleable jewels.
Pardew was criticised for the manner in which he accepted the position, stepping into Hughton’s shoes after the former boss had been shoddily axed by his new employers, but Shearer defends him.
He said: “It’s a ruthless business. You know, out-of-work managers are a bit like vultures, circling over managers who are struggling, waiting to see if a job comes up.
“It’s just the way it is. I don’t blame Alan Pardew at all for what he has done in coming to Newcastle.
“It wasn’t his fault what happened to Chris. He has come into a good job at a club in a good position with some good players, of course he was going to take it when it was offered.”
There is, however, a warning, as he questioned whether Ashley has the money or the willingness to turn Newcastle into a major force again.
He said: “Quite how far he can take Newcastle I don’t know. If the owner is happy to carry on finishing in mid-table, he should be able to do that, but if they want to go higher, there needs to be some big investment.
“I don’t think the owner will do that. From what I hear, he wants to concentrate on bringing youth through, but so does everyone else. If everyone is trying to do the same thing, it’s incredibly hard to just say ‘we’re going to produce our own players’ and that will bring success.
“There is vast potential at Newcastle, there always have been, but you have to unlock it.
“If it was that easy, Manchester United and Liverpool would do it, they are areas just like this one, football hotbeds, but they can’t do it because the kids aren’t there and it costs big money to get the best ones.
“Everyone is looking to do the same thing. Newcastle have to realise that.”
Hats off to Black Cats boss Bruce
IT is painful for him to admit and he might have once choked on the words, but Alan Shearer is full of admiration for the way Sunderland have progressed under Steve Bruce.
The Black Cats have thrived under the former Manchester United skipper (pictured above) and have put themselves into a position where they go into the New Year with a realistic chance of qualifying for Europe next season.
Shearer does not believe there are many top-flight managers who have done a better job over the last 19 months, and he feels the presence of Niall Quinn in the boardroom ensures he has precisely the right sort of backing from above.
He said: “They have got a great combination up there with Niall as chairman, who is a real football man, and Steve Bruce as manager, who is doing a wonderful job.
“He took a pounding for the 5-1 defeat at Newcastle, but look how they have bounced back. They were sixth in the table going into Christmas and I really like him.
“It’s a young team which should develop and get even better, but he has also made some big deals with Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan and it’s a good mix.
“It is becoming an extremely tough place to go and, as hard as it is for me to say as a Geordie, you have to give them credit.”
It was also hard for Shearer to admit defeat in England’s bid to host the World Cup in 2018, and the former national team captain fears we will never get the opportunity to stage the tournament because of the way Fifa runs the game.
He said: “It was a real eye-opener to how things are done. When you walked into Fifa headquarters it was like walking on to a James Bond set. There are these 22 members sitting around a table.
“If you take (Michel) Platini and (Franz) Beckenbauer out, who the hell are they?
“We tried to play the game. We tried to do it their way.
“We should have won it, we had the best bid, that was generally accepted. If you have the best bid, the best bid should win it, at least that’s the theory.
“But we didn’t, so I don’t think we will bid again, not for a long time.”