Toon Say No to the Golden BoyBy: Martha | January 16th, 2008
[Edit: As of a few seconds ago, Keegan is back. More to come.]
The specter of Gaffer Al has been hanging over St. James’ Park for years. It first appeared back when Bobby Robson was still on the bench, when talk of Shearer spending a year as Sir Bobby’s assistant after hanging up his boots (Or, some said, even before that — Al could do anything, why not player-assistant manager?) started, after which point he’d presumably assume his rightful place at the Newcastle helm.
It didn’t happen, but the specter’s never really gone away: Through the Souness, Roeder and Allardyce era’s, Al’s always been there, carefully not saying anything specific about his interest in the job and, indeed, being supportive when asked. No matter what he says, though, he’s always there, the great black and white hope for supporters to point to as the savior-in-waiting.
The fact that he never has to actually do anything, of course, only enhances the appeal of Gaffer Al. As long as he never tries and fails, he’s able to keep his perfection intact, particularly as the team goes down the tubes, and successive experienced managers are unable to right the ship. Gradually, that whole “experience” thing fades in importance, and as it does, Shearer, in the eyes of the Toon Army, becomes an even more appealing option.
Mike Ashley, however, isn’t fooled: After smiling and quietly encouraging the workings of the rumor mill for weeks, Shearer confessed to The Sun today that he’s known since the departure of Big Sam that he’s not on Newcastle’s list. Why not? Experience, or rather the lack thereof. Call me crazy, but Ashley’s refusal to leap for the coach who would, at least for a while, make supporters adore him, might just be the first step in a Toon revival. (We’ll see how he does with resisting Keegan.)
[Also, if you hate Shearer, check out Michael Hann's spectacular hatchet job from today's Guardian Unlimited. Damn. I adore the man, but even I saw some truth in the piece.]