Celtic (h) Friendly - Alan Shearer Testimonial
Half time: Newcastle 0 Celtic 0
70 mins Robert Lee spread the play out to
Peter Ramage who put
over a deep cross from the right flank which Albert Luque volleyed first time into the Gallowgate
goal from six yards. 1-0
83 mins John Hartson converted a cross from the right with a fine downward header. 1-2
90+1 mins A mysterious free-kick was awarded on the edge of the Celtic box and quickly taken by Michael Chopra to suddenly find Sir Les in the area, near the byline. The merest challenge would have seen a tumble but instead Ferdinand crossed and the ball went in off Lawson 2-2
90+3 mins Celtic seemed intent on giving us the ball and at the second attempt it found its way to Ferdinand who charged into the box. Two challenges ensured that Clattenburg could point to the spot and with just seconds left on the clock the scene was set for a late substitution.
On came Alan Shearer
mixture of cheers and chortles as the referee appeared to have a word with
Marshall - presumably suggesting which way he should dive.
Full time: Newcastle 3 Celtic 2
The man of the moment, Alan Shearer said:
"There was more than just a tear in my eye when I was
walking around. I defy anyone not to have a tear. The way they have been, it's just incredible. Where else do you get
something like that?"
About his son Will:
An obviously moved Les Ferdinand said:
"How can you put a night like that into words? Well the
only word I can come up with is unbelievable. It really was such an
You had to be there.
For various reasons it was a logistical nightmare for me to attend Alan Shearer's Testimonial, but there was no way I was going to miss it. And yet on the morning of the game, I have to say there was a feeling of indifference about the whole thing.
The injured number 9 obviously wouldn't feature and the team providing the opposition - perennial testimonial guests Celtic - had just come from Roy Keane's testimonial: overshadowed in part by Ruud van Nistelrooy being banned from taking part by his soon-to-be ex-Manager Alex Ferguson.
Michael Owen had also been forbidden from
appearing at Shearer's shindig - not by anyone connected with Newcastle United, but
by England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
We knew that some old faces would be there; Rob Lee, Les Ferdinand, Gary Speed and Steve Watson were all promised. Comparing that cast list with the amazing line-up for Peter Beardsley's benefit game (Andy Cole, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Beardo himself and of course Shearer) pulses weren't exactly set racing.
Like the Beardsley game, Celtic fans were evident in Toon all day. Presumably most of them had been on a week-long binge from Glasgow to Manchester and then Newcastle. It seemed to be good-natured although you've got to wonder why they insisted on singing the Henrik Larsson song - if they really did think "Shearer is a w*nker" then why bother coming to Tyneside?
It was bedlam outside the ground half an
hour before kick-off. The scramble for the last few commemorative programmes was unnecessary and
unpleasant - people buying fistfuls in an attempt to cash in via ebay
That gesture so was surprising I almost walked
straight past what I thought was someone selling something unwanted at an
Kick-off was delayed to make sure everyone got in safely and an operatic warbler started off proceedings. I'm not sure who it was, but she seemed to be well received by those who knew her work, or who had a closer view than me….
And then it was time to hold up bits of coloured card that had been left on the seats. Hmm, I'm not always a big fan of this with the horrible red and white stripes at Highbury still fresh in my mind. The black, white and gold cards looked stunning when held aloft: two massive number "9"s emerging behind the goals and "SHEARER" in gold letters filling the East Stand.
This was a good night to be in Level 7 of the Milburn….
The scarves and bits of card were surprise but welcome additions;
this was almost starting to look
stage managed and professional and even the groundsman getting in on the act
with some neat grass shaving on the halfway line to create the silhouette of
a black and white number 9 shirt.
The noise was immense, so much so that young Will Shearer had to cover his ears as the packed ground showed their appreciation. Al said he defied anyone in his shoes not to have a tear in their eye, well I was in my own shoes but I'd certainly filled up at that point. What a reception a really special moment. You wondered what on earth could follow that wouldn't be an anti-climax.
The first half of the match was certainly a bit disappointing, although the first ten seconds were memorable - Shearer kicked it off before promptly being replaced by Michael Chopra and making his way off amid more applause. But who cared about the football?
I've been to Testimonials that have ended 6-3 (Jinky Jim Smith's for example) and they have a bit of a pantomime air about them. At least Newcastle and Celtic were playing "properly" and that made Charles N'Zogbia's run and shot that Gordon Marshall saved onto the bar even better.
Both sides made a host of changes at the break and it made for a more open game with Speed catching the eye. But just when you wondered why we'd let him go, a wayward pass would jog the memory.
Then came one of the highlights of the evening. It has to be acknowledged that it was inspired by the noisy visiting fans who had started twirling their scarves above their heads but minutes later the home sections followed suit and it was a staggering sight to see the whole ground doing it.
Rob Lee came on with quarter of the game left and straight away his distribution from midfield was outstanding. Within a few minutes he sprayed a pass out to Ramage and his deep cross fell perfectly for Luque to volley a stunning goal past Marshall.
The ovation for Les Ferdinand was tremendous and like the reception for Keegan at Beardsley's Testimonial it threatened to overshadow the star of the show, who occasionally waved from the bench when his name was chanted.
With some old-timers starting to tire, the play was beginning to get stretched and a long ball caught out our defence, leaving Ramage to chop down Maloney in the box. The same player dispatched a smartly taken penalty and it was 1-1.
John Hartson then converted a cross from the right with a fine downward header and once again the evening threatened to fall a bit flat. A late home penalty seemed inevitable but as the time board was held aloft we didn't look like getting anywhere near their area, let alone inside it.
Referee Mark Clattenburg had the situation in hand and in adding three minutes of extra time he was obviously giving United every chance to get the ball forward. Ferdinand did almost equalise, only for a linesman's flag and some wayward control let him down.
But then a mysterious free-kick was awarded on the edge of the Celtic box and quickly taken by Michael Chopra to Sir Les near the byline in the area. The merest challenge would have seen a tumble but instead Ferdinand crossed and the ball went in off Paul Lawson for 2-2. Judging by the players' reactions this wasn't in the script but it was a welcome piece of ad-libbing.
From the kick-off Celtic seemed intent on giving us the ball and at the second attempt it finally found Ferdinand who charged into the box. Two challenges ensured that Clattenburg could point to the spot and with seconds left on the clock the scene was set for a late substitution.
On came Alan Shearer to a
mixture of cheers and chortles as the referee consulted with Marshall (whose
namesake father played for Newcastle) - perhaps suggesting which way to dive.
There was still a last chance to say farewell and the warbler was wheeled out again to sing something about saying goodbye. Given the fact that she was far from rotund, the fat lady still hadn't sung and next on the podium were Ant and Dec (looking nervous but very pleased with themselves) to coordinate some award-giving from the Premier League, The FA and from NUFC.
The "Who are ya?" chant for the TV duo was tongue in cheek but some boos for the arrival of Chairman Freddy Shepherd were less charitable as Al received various trinkets, including a cast of the boots with which he broke Jackie Milburn's goalscoring record.
Shearer was interviewed and was unusually tongue-tied as the emotion in his voice was obvious. And then he and his three kids went on a final lap of honour which seemed to fly by as the noise level remained consistently high with all four stands cheering him round.
As he neared the tunnel for the last time, he gave a final wave and fireworks were launched from the stands as shiny tickertape cascading down on to the pitch. A suitable blockbuster finale.
All of us had taken part in,
and experienced, an evening of pure escapism. It wasn't a real match and
perhaps declaring our undying love for a sheet metal worker's son for kicking a
ball into a goal is something we'd struggle to justify. However, the feeling between
the hero and legend and his followers in the stands was intense and real -
perhaps unique - something
none here will forget.