Alan Shearer: Remembering the First Professional Year of the Premier League’s Leading Goalscorer

When football fans list their all-time Premier League XI, arguably the toughest decision to make is up front. Often, we’re drawn to the bright lights of foreign superstars: Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dennis Bergkamp etc and yet, criminally, the greatest Premier League goalscorer of all time is regularly overlooked.

Despite retiring over 14 years ago, Alan Shearer’s tally of 260 Premier League goals is yet to be surpassed – in fact, nobody has even come close to the marksman’s imperious figure.

A fresh-faced Alan Shearer at Southampton

A single Premier League winner’s medal fails to adequately reflect the prodigious talent of Newcastle’s homegrown hero.

While Shearer is undoubtably best known for his spells with the Magpies and Blackburn Rovers, it was with Southampton that he made his name.

Having spent his early teenage years at the famed Wallsend Boys Club, Shearer was spotted by Southampton scouts and joined the club’s academy at the age of 16. The future England captain wasn’t short of potential suitors prior to the move, with West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City and Newcastle all said to be keen on acquiring his services.

After just two years in the youth setup, it was clear that Shearer was ready for stiffer tests and he was promoted to the senior squad – it was here where the youngster would be catapulted into the spotlight.

After numerous matchdays spent as an unused substitute, Shearer’s big moment came in March 1988 when he came off the bench in Southampton’s First Division fixture at Chelsea. Just two weeks later and with only two cameo appearances to his name, Shearer became the most talked about prospect in English football.

Shearer became synonymous with his one arm aloft celebration

The big boys were in town, as Arsenal arrived at The Dell. Just three hours before kick off, Saints striker Danny Wallace failed a fitness test, and it was Shearer’s time to shine.

“I got to the team hotel and the manager said, ‘Danny Wallace has failed a fitness test, so you are starting’, I just thought, ‘Wow’,” Shearer told The Sun. “It was also the first time I’d ever had fillet steak as I chose it for my pre-match meal. I saw all the big hitters were having it and I remember asking for it just because they did.”

With his pre-match meal tucked away, Shearer’s full debut was underway and wasn’t long before he was tucking away the first of his 283 career league goals. Shearer became synonymous with bullet headers during his 18-year career, so it’s perhaps apt that five minutes in he opened his account in trademark style.

What followed was something the youngster became even more synonymous with over the years, as he wheeled away with his arm aloft in delight.

Despite an Arsenal equaliser, there was to be nothing that could stand in the way of this being Shearer’s day. Another header from the big man restored the Saints lead before the break, and just four minutes after the restart the hat-trick was complete – a cool finish after pouncing on the rebound of his own effort which had cannoned off the crossbar.

At 17 years and 240 days old, Shearer had broken Jimmy Greaves’ 30-year-old record in becoming the youngest player ever to score a top-flight hat-trick. To put the achievement into perspective, the hat-trick hero couldn’t even legally celebrate his feat with a drink that evening after helping his team to a 4-2 win.

Shearer would go on to make two further appearances that season, finishing his maiden campaign with three goals in five games – impressive stats for a player who was yet to turn 18.

The following campaign Shearer would be eased into life as a First Division footballer, making ten appearances – all goalless, surprisingly. The youngster was used as a target man in a Saints team with Matt Le Tissier and Rod Wallace either side of him.

It was only really a few seasons later that Shearer consistently displayed the predatory instincts he became known for, but his time at Southampton had laid the foundations for what would be a truly emphatic career.

His life as a top-flight footballer may not have gleaned the team silverware others can boast, but individual accolades are something Shearer is far from short of. The greatest Premier League goalscorer of all time.

Source : 90min