Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shear Lunacy? Shear Delight?!

When yer actual Keith telly Topping heard Sky Sports News reporting that Alan Shearer had taken over as manager - until the end of the season - at his beloved Magpies around ten o'clock last night the first thing that he did was to look at his watch and say 'But, but, but ... it's not 1 April for another two hours!' It's certainly never dull at St. James' Park, is it?! Okay, minus side, first: Shearer has got no previous effective managerial experience. But, everybody's got to start somewhere. On the other hand, neither has Chris Hughton any previous effective managerial experience ... Or Joe Kinnear for that matter. Emphasis on 'effective'. So Shearer can't, surely, do any worse than either of those two clowns for a kick-off. And, trust me, even that damning-with-faint praise remains vaguely comforting to a life-long Gallowgate Ender. Disappointment, I know how to handle, it's yer actual harsh reality that most United supporters seem to have major problems with.

The decision smacks of hasty desperation of course but, I respect the man greatly and I expect that, if we're going to go down (as still seems very likely), with Shearer in the dressing room at the very least we'll probably go down with a bit of fight rather than meekly 'surrendering-before-kick-off' as we've looked like doing up till now.

The excellent did pose one very interesting question. They wondered if we could get him registered as a player? I mean, we all know he hasn't played for the best part of three years and that he's got a dodgy knee ... but, for all that, he's still far better than Mark Viduka and Alan Smith put together. Certainly from Mike Ashley's point of view this would appear to be his last real roll of the dice. His last even remote chance of emerging from this debacle with a smidgen of credit and dignity in tact. It's got all the hallmarks of his decision to bring Kevin Keegan back to St James' last year - a curious mixture of crass wish-fulfillment, pure and abject desperation and a bit of short-term crowd appeasement - but there is one major difference and that's the personality of the figure he's dealing with this time around. Keegan was, lovely bloke and all that but, a fragile and temperamental soul who needed to have his ego-stroked and to feel loved. Shearer is neither those things. He's a smart man, a politicial man and very hard man indeed.

Alan Shearer himself is in an absolute no-lose situation. What's the very worst that can happen? United go down. Well, they're going down anyway by the look of things so, what's the problem? It'll hardly be his fault and certainly it won't be seen as such by supporters. Trevor Brooking was quoted in the Chronicle tonight as saying "if [Shearer] keeps Newcastle up, he'll be a legend on Tyneside." No, Trevor, he's already that and will continue to be even if he never has anything to do with the club for the rest of his life. On the other hand, let's just say he can manage to cobble together ten or eleven points from the last eight games (not impossible by any means, we've got four home games left and still have to play Stoke away, for instance) and United scramble to safety by the skin of their teeth. Now, who's going to get the credit for that? Ashley. No chance' The players? Bugger off. One man alone would be seen to have saved Newcastle, almost single-handedly. Yer actual "sheet-metal worker's son from Gosforth". Sod Mister Keegan, hallowed be thy name, that would be a real 'Geordie Messiah' doing a real 'Feeding of the Fifty Two Thousand'-style miracle. It would also put Alan in a genuinely commanding position in terms of "what happens next." Because, if anybody thinks for one single second that most United fans would casually accept going back to Joe Kinnear and/or Mssrs Calderwood/Hughton as their manager (or pretty much anyone else come to that) after they've had a sniff of The Big Man in the job, they can jolly well think again. You want riots in the streets of the Toon, Mister Ashley? Try and pull something like the same stunt with Alan that you did with Keegan. Shearer would then be in a position in the summer to say "right, I'll take the job full-time but on my terms. You can get rid of them pair of jokers on the bench, I want Robert Lee and maybe Gary Speed back to work with me, I want complete autonomy in terms of who I sign and I want the money to be able to go for decent players and not the complete non-entities this club has become associated with." If Ashley has problems with any of that, Shearer simply walks back to his very lucrative job at the BBC. And, who - exactly - does anyone imagine the supporters (not most of the supporters, but every single one of them) would be behind should such a scenario happen? Unlike Kevin Keegan, Shearer certainly doesn't need this job.

Then, of course, you've got the continuing Dennis Wise situation. I cannot believe that Alan Shearer has gone into even temporary charge at Newcastle with the idea still in the air that he'll be even working with (let alone under) Dennis Wise. On Thursday morning it was revealed that Wise has, indeed, left the club, a official statement noting 'The Club would like to take this opportunity to wish Dennis well for the future.' I would merely record, as a necessary counter-argument, Biffa and Niall's editorial comments on and leave you, dear blog reader, to make up your own mind concerning Wise and his alleged 'contributions' to my beloved team. "The club may wish him well for the future but we're glad to see the back of the odious, poisoned dwarf and alleged Blue Peter garden destroyer. We wish him nothing but misery for the future, having caused us untold grief for the last fourteen months. Good riddance to bad rubbish." Harsh, perhaps, but not entirely unfair.

I think Shearer's played an absolute blinder here, without so much as getting his boots dirty. He'll have the crowd on-side. He'll have the local media on-side (and probably the majority of the national boys too, though there are, undeniably, a few people with long-term agendas who would love to see him fail far more than they'd love to see Chris Hughton or even Mike Ashley fail. But, that merely adds to the fun if he does pull off a Houdini-act). If anybody can get this team of wantonly underachieving, overpaid, thoroughly workshy prima-donnas working, effectively, it's a man who has been there, done that and won pretty much everything worth winning in the game [*]. And, if it doesn't work (as it probably won't) then, like I said, not his fault - "if only they'd got him ten games earlier", and all that.

* Edited to add. Keith Telly Topping's mate Alfie The Mackem Scum points out, rightly, that apart from sixty three England caps and a Premier League champions medal with Blackburn, Shearer 'hasn't won all that much' in the game. True, albeit, his career achievements are infinitely greater than any of the players who are currently under his charge, which was the point this blogger was trying to make. It's a reasonable comment, however. I mean, Alf's a reasonable man, to be fair. Especially since he supports a team that hasn't won the league title since 1936.

Anyway ... Chelsea on Saturday. That'll be fun!