In 1996, Alan Shearer signed for his boyhood club, when he could have signed for pretty much any team in England. I have always respected the bloke after that. His first kick of a football in a Newcastle shirt was against Lincoln City FC down at good old Sincil Bank.
A pre season game for the Imps, who in the previous campaign finished very close to the bottom of the Football League, this fixture seemed like a dream come true to LCFC fans, and we sold out the bank to witness the world class striker perform on the historic turf of our home. As a child of 10 at the time, I still remember the game well, and my Dad and me often talk about it.
Kevin Keegan was in charge, and my Dad, whilst working at the club, had the opportunity to meet Shearer before the game. Shearer shook my Dad’s hand, tapped him on the back and gave a thoroughly Geordie murmur of ‘y’all right mate’. I count that as ‘meeting’. The stadium was brimming with excitement and anticipation; it was like a cup final. Although we knew we had little chance of winning or even scoring, the occasion felt electric, and looking back now at Alan’s career, we really were honoured and privileged to have seen him break in his magpie boots in our city.
In a modern football world full ridiculous transfer fees, where average players now go for tens of millions in the Premier League, Alan Shearer’s fee at the time of £15 million seems small to say the least, with the ridiculous rate of inflation in our nation it still only amounts to the equivalent of £26million today. I have to ask, how much would a player with the calibre of Alan Shearer, in his prime, sell for today?! £100 million? £200 million? £1 billion?!!
As we all know, football money is crazy these days, but it’s simply because there is so much money in football, we Brits love a bit of footy, if we didn’t love it so much, there would be no humongous fees for the likes of Pogba etc in the top league nowadays, if we all loved a different sport like hockey or something, hockey players would get paid millions and we would all be building huge hockey stadiums! But we don’t like hockey, we love football, and that’s that. The money and interest we pump into the football industry through attendance, shirt sales, TV subscriptions and all the other forms of interest have created this huge money bubble.
In comparison to today, in 1996, Shearer’s £15 million transfer from Blackburn was a world transfer-breaking fee. We were witnessing the most expensive player in the world playing against the mighty imps. It’s astounding really. John Beck’s Imps side at the time had a total value of £220,000.
Ultimately, the reason we were lucky enough to get this fixture was very much due to the legendary Imp Darren Huckerby’s transfer from Lincoln to Newcastle at the time, and the connections that created. Shearer made his debut for the Magpies, who had finished runners up the previous season, in front of a 10,069 strong and we witnessed the Premier League legend score in his debut for the North-East side.
The world was indeed watching, and many a club across the land would have begged for this debut at their ground. Press from around the country crammed into the stands, ticket sales went mad and LCFC fans couldn’t believe their luck to get Lincoln City FC such world-class exposure. 2000 Geordies came to witness the historic moment, and another 2000 came down anyway to stand outside and see Shearer step off the bus and simply breathe the same air as him. We were very lucky indeed to get this match. Shearer went on to become the top premiership goal scorer in history, what an amazing achievement.
I often wonder what Shearer would have achieved in terms of trophies if he was surrounded by players a bit closer to his quality, especially in his slightly later years playing for the toon, but undoubtedly he made the correct decision signing for his childhood club, a club he truly loved deep down to the core. I’m sure many an Imp can understand that, if I were any good at football, I’d rather play for the Imps than any other team in the world. Having that constant home pride must have given Shearer an extra 5 goals a season at least.
The game kicked off, and it took Shearer 18 minutes to strike his first shot for the toon army against the Imps, the shot was saved by Barry Richardson. A handball in the box led to a penalty before half time however, and Shearer stepped up and scored his first goal in a Newcastle United shirt. Phillipe Albert went on to score the second goal, but no one really remembers that strike much, all eyes were glued to the most expensive footballer in the world, playing for his hero of a manager.
Shearer played the full 90 minutes and I can honestly say I was honoured to see it, I didn’t really watch the game, or keep an eye on our team, I was caught up in the excitement of watching a true star perform down the road from my house. Of course I had hoped we would score, and at the time I was naively disappointed to see us lose without many attempts, but in hindsight we of course did incredibly well to finish the game 0-2. As a club and fan base we were dignified and esteemed to have been part of such a great occasion.
It was truly a classic Lincoln City memory, and under the management of the legendary Cowley brothers we have many more to come, plus we have a certain young hometown player of our own, who is also destined for great things. Bring it on Everton.