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Give Alan Shearer time to wake up the Toon

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Geordies know how to wake people up. When all but one of Terry Venables' England squad slept in their beds at Burnham Beeches during Euro 96, Paul Gascoigne prepared the morning reveille.

 

Opening the door to his hotel room and the windows for good measure, Gascoigne cranked up his ghetto-blaster and shook the building with blasts of "Three Lions On A Shirt''.

 

Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Paul Ince, Gareth Southgate, David Platt, Stuart Pearce and company stirred from their slumber before realising they had another hour to wait before breakfast. Thanks, Gazza. Yesterday it was the turn of another Geordie to shake people into life, Shearer starting his managerial career against Chelsea at a raucous St James' Park, a venue that has seen more messiahs than Handel. Predictably Chelsea won, reminding Shearer of the scale of his salvage work.

 

As he shook hands with Guus Hiddink, a manager he embarrassed at Euro 96, Shearer became the seventh member of Venables' team to graduate to the dug-out. Gascoigne failed at Kettering, inevitably so given his mental demons. Surprisingly given his intelligence, Platt struggled at Sampdoria and Nottingham Forest. Two more of the Boys of 96 have fallen by the wayside this season, Ince being dismissed by Blackburn Rovers and Adams walking the plank at Portsmouth.

 

Only Southgate and Pearce have really built names for themselves as managers. Southgate faces awkward times at Middlesbrough while Pearce has been removed from the club firing line, now impressing in charge of England Under-21s after some woes at Manchester City. Now it is the turn of Shearer, one northern rock Geordies can rely on.

 

In an era of the national team being managed by an Italian, it has never become more important to nurture young English managerial talent. Yet it has become fashionable to mock the travails of the England alumni, internationals who dreamed of a glittering second career, soaring to great heights, yet ending up like Icarus, crashing and burning. Now Shearer has been questioned for daring to come to the assistance of his hometown club, despite not having the Pro-Licence. (He has all the other paperwork and has been given dispensation to work for now).

 

The Dutch, inevitably, have a better system in place, fast-tracking promising stars the moment they hang up their boots, something the Football Association could learn from and would be far easier if they ever got round to building the National Football Centre.

 

Next to Shearer stood Hiddink, master and apprentice rubbing shoulders. He knows all about creating coaching structures for recently retired icons, having helped the Dutch Federation form their fast-track scheme. "It is not as long as the normal course, which is four to five years,'' said Hiddink. "It is one-and-half years for people like Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.'' Phillip Cocu is the latest to swap orange shirt for tracksuit.

 

For all the fuss over Shearer not having sat all his badges, the Dutch are hardly complete sticklers for protocol. "There are exceptional situations when the Federation give permission and then you have to get your diploma,'' added Hiddink.

 

Newcastle United in crisis (again) may be too frequent a situation to be deemed "exceptional'' but Shearer deserves some slack. Whatever the difficulties of Newcastle's season, Shearer could mature into an accomplished manager. In the past, his name has cropped up in discussions within Soho Square about England players who could go on to manage the national team. The Euro 96 dressing room has long been considered a breeding ground for potential managers.

 

They just need time, patience and proper tutoring.

 

As Adams told his defeated team-mates in the aftermath of that shoot-out loss to Germany: "What have we got to be ashamed of? We were unbeaten in open play. We can go on in life with our heads held high.'' Shearer agreed before showing his compassionate streak by pleading with the media not to vilify Southgate for his penalty aberration. Throughout his career, Shearer has said things in public and private that signalled his managerial potential.

 

Amidst all the fanfare flowing down from Gallowgate yesterday, the chants of "Shearer's black-and-white army'', salient points were made by leaders of the Toon Army. Newcastle's influential fanzine, The Mag, carried an editorial arguing cogently that Shearer possesses the qualities to become a "great manager'', pointing out his influence as the "driving force'' when assisting Glenn Roeder.

 

"That late surge into seventh place and InterToto 'glory' was mainly down to him,'' added the editor Mark Jensen. "The fact that we were almost relegated the following season when he was no longer around speaks volumes.'' It also speaks volumes for Shearer's hold on the Geordie public that even the monthly fanzine rushed out a "stop press''. He deserves this chance to wake the Toon up.

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