Friday, 1 May 2009

Time running out for Shearer's survival bid

The scenes across Newcastle on the day local hero, Alan Shearer, was confirmed as manager, with thousands of fans surrounding St James' Park in excitement and disbelief, epitomised the feeling in the city of anticipation and, ultimately, hope of a much-needed 'great escape' from the threat of relegation to the Championship.

Such was the euphoria reverberating throughout the city amongst the club's passionate fans that few wearing the black and white of Newcastle would have dared contemplate the prospect of Shearer not experiencing some form of instant success.

Some fans remained more realistic than others, revealing their thoughts that whilst long-term problems which have haunted the club for years would find no solution in the form of Shearer, a magnificent player but one still lacking in managerial experience, the lift the players would receive from his arrival would no doubt be enough to record a couple of wins and lift the club to Premier League safety.

Furthermore, Michael Owen would be filled with renewed confidence and under-performing egos such as Obafemi Martins would be snapped into line by the presence of a local legend.

Fast-forward one month and Alan Shearer has been at the helm for four matches. The instant rejuvenation has not been seen. Michael Owen still can't find the back of the net. Obafemi Martins still appears to have problems with his discipline and self-motivation and, most importantly, Newcastle have not recorded a single victory.

This situation has probably come as some surprise to the Geordie faithful, who allowed their hopes and dreams to blindside their concept of reality, but to the Newcastle boss, his first month in charge has brought no shocks whatsoever. Shearer stated: "Is it everything I thought it would be? Yes. Is it difficult? Yes" but was keen to add that the job has not been "more difficult" than he initially imagined.

In light of Newcastle's damaging scoreless draw against Portsmouth earlier this week (a match which Shearer insisted was a must-win prior to kick-off), it is difficult to believe his affirmation that he is "enjoying" the job "despite not winning".

Quite how anyone at the helm of a relegation-threatened club can enjoy their job appears hard to comprehend - just look at Gareth Southgate's face over the past few months and the ever-increasing expression of disbelief, anger, and anxiety that has gradually replaced the smug grin plastered across Hull boss, Phil Brown's face.

Enjoyment aside, Shearer will have to do something radical if he is to steer his beloved Newcastle to Premier League safety this season. A clash against Liverpool at Anfield may not provide Shearer and Newcastle with the points they need to kick-start a belated attempt at survival, although the manager was keen not to admit defeat: "We go there as underdogs, but nothing is impossible in life".

At the moment, survival is certainly not impossible. However, if Shearer continues to delay the start of Newcastle's bid to play in the Premier League for another season, he may well find that the remotely possible soon turns into the mathematically impossible.

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