Forget transfers, bring in Shearer

Last updated at 21:41 20 January 2008

Keegan, Shearer, Owen. One mature conversation is all it will take now to unite this line of star England strikers into a conquering trio.

They love comic-strip labels

on the Tyne so we can go along

with the King Kev and Super Al

designations for Newcastle's

ideal coaching set-up.


One thing English football

almost never does is deliver on

its mantra about preparing the

next manager while installing a

new one for today. This is Newcastle

United's big opportunity.

And since Kevin Keegan

appears sincere in his wish to

have the modern Jackie Milburn

by his side, personalities,

not issues, are all that stand

between St James' Park and a

proper reformation.

Boy do they need one. On

Saturday, for Keegan's Third

Coming, a cheap Sam Allardyce

team grappled with an expensive

Sam Allardyce side in a

match of numbing tedium.

Eleven Bolton robots set their

heart's desire no higher than a

soporific draw as Keegan tried

to fashion another showbiz

splash from a squad missing

four African players as well as

Mark Viduka, Nicky Butt, Emre,

Joey Barton and Alan Smith,

whose name was whipped off

owner Mike Ashley's replica

shirt in favour of 'King Kev 1.'

You don't see that at Old

Etonian Arsenal or august Manchester United. Under a

Keegan-Shearer partnership

Ashley's blokeish tendencies

would seem less like a rich man

living a private fantasy and

more like harmless boardroom


Only the further addition of

Sir Bobby Robson, who has

been unwell, could add any

more lustre to a front-line team

who could stabilise the club for

the next 10 years, rather than

the usual 10 minutes.

But back to those 'personalities'.

Owen, Keegan and Shearer

have spent the last few days in a

triangle of attempted reconciliation.

Commendably, Shearer's

successor as senior England

striker stuck with his criticisms

of Keegan's England management

in his autobiography

which, to declare an interest, I


In his newspaper column yesterday,

Owen said: "What I said in

my book a few years back was an

honest opinion and I stand by it."

Keegan has already shunted

his 'shock' at Owen's complaints

into a siding. At his unveiling the

new manager was effusive in his

praise for his No 9 and on

Saturday made him captain for

Bolton's party-killing visit.

One down, one to go. For the

three to now form a golden

tripod, Shearer might have to

qualify his warning that we can

now expect 'kamikaze' football,

while Keegan is going to have to

find a No 2 role that protects his

own authority but gives

Shearer meaningful work to do.

He will not be jumping off the

BBC's cosy sofas just to become

Terry McDermott without the

moustache. If Shearer stays in

the studio, Keegan is doomed to

work in his shadow, which is

probably why he wants his

£15million signing inside the tent,

rather than outside, peeing in.

This micro-drama of bridge building

goes on against a backdrop

of shocking inadequacy in

the first-team squad. If body

language is any guide, Keegan

has already cooled on

Allardyce's £6m left-back Jose

Enrique, while Steven Carr and

Damien Duff will need to

recover their old grounddevouring

dynamism to fulfil

Keegan's wish to deploy players

'who can go past people'.

The calibre of Newcastle's

midfield play is way below the

standard needed to create

chances for Owen, Obafemi

Martins and Mark Viduka,

when those two return. The

good news, though, is that

St James' had none of the feel

of a Billy Graham convention,

despite the 'Return Of The

King' paper hats and the

noticeable frisson around the

town. Local experts say the fans

have been too worn down by

watching dross to believe in

instant miracles.

On the contrary, it seems that

behind the stereotype of

Geordie excitability and romanticism

there is a sharp appreciation

of how many new players

need to be 'fetched in' to use

Keegan's favourite phrase, and

how many fetched out. Ashley

has his new manager. Now he

just needs the new team.

Amazing, really, to think that

Keegan is actually the fall-back

option after Harry Redknapp.

But life was never linear.

One fact is known to Keegan:

'Alan Shearer is going to manage

this football club one day."

So they might as well start the

journey now, in an orderly fashion

that allows all the Geordie

factions to unite and provides

Shearer with the experience he

needs to assume command.

Never mind the three players

Keegan wants to fetch in this

transfer window, the Shearer

issue dwarfs all manpower

issues. This is their chance. Do

they love the club enough to

take it?