Wednesday, 6 May 2009

We’re Going Down With The Mackems

It looks like Newcastle United are now in complete freefall. This month’s saviour couldn’t save his own pocket money and, unless there is a resounding victory against Middlesbrough next Monday, it will be almost impossible to stay in the division.

Alan Shearer has now had five games in charge of the team and has steered the club to just two points in that time. Worse, his 3-5-2 formation has served up just one goal. The experiment has failed – it was hoped that he would give the players an instant lift and motivate them to earn the handful of points needed for safety. Instead, he has fiddled with the formation, swapped players like they are on stickers, and, even with Iain Dowie beside him, displayed no evidence of any tactical acumen.

In just one month, the physical strain is starting to show. On Sunday, he looked so pained as Liverpool scored their third goal, that even Dowie looked calm and carefree in comparison.

I’m sure he’s lost some more hair too. The male pattern baldness that has been stalking him for several years had left him sporting a small patch of hair at the front of his head – a patch that has become known in our house as Shearer Island. After just five games as a Premiership manager, Shearer Island has disappeared, like that place in the Caribbean that sank under the waves after a particularly troublesome volcano went off.

After the Liverpool game, Shearer focused his anger on the increasingly farcical figure of Joey Barton. Having seen him sent off for a clumsy tackle on Xabi Alonso, Shearer decided to scapegoat him for the fact that the club is in 19th place in the league. He then took the morally courageous decision to suspend a player who was already suspended from playing due to the red card!

I’m no particular fan of Joey Barton, but it is unfair and just plain lazy to blame him for all Newcastle’s woes. The tackle wasn’t even all that reckless – it was a red card offence, but Shearer was so disgusted with it that he seemed to completely forget the time he tried to put one of his football boots inside Neil Lennon's head.

The real problem facing Shearer is that, as his status as Newcastle’s messiah slowly burnishes, his fallback day job may be looking just as precarious. In much the same way as I have never bought into the idea that he would be a great manager simply because he was a great striker, nor have I ever been convinced by Alan Shearer the pundit.

Whilst he’s been away, a couple of young pretenders have been establishing a foothold and may prove difficult to dislodge. Lee “Alan” Dixon, in complete contrast to Shearer, is interesting and insightful; and I can’t be the only person to be surprised at Martin “Alan” Keown. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but who could possibly have looked at this marauding old-fashioned centre-half, a man who made Tony Adams look like David Beckham, and foreseen a glittering media career? He is articulate, well-spoken, and confident. Why should the fact that he looks like Mr Punch be an impediment to a television career?

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