On Manchester United forums all over the internet, on any thread which discusses which man will replace Sir Alex Ferguson, at least one or two former United players will be mentioned. Until his melt-down at Sunderland, Roy Keane was a favourite, whilst Mark Hughes was fancied for the job before he took over at City. Eric Cantona is the dream, whilst Steve Bruce is showing his capabilities with Wigan, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing a cracking job with the Reserves, who are currently second in their league.
There is the desire for familiarity at Manchester United, given Ferguson will have probably been in the job for a quarter of a century, or there abouts, by the time he leaves. It makes sense that the fans would crave the replacement to be someone we know all about who understands how things work at United, who has worked under Ferguson and can continue on with his excellent work.
Regardless, the idea of having one of your playing heroes as the manager of your club would surely appeal to any fan. A player whose name you’ve chanted and worn on the back of your shirt, a player you would constantly praise and defend to anyone who would listen, a player who represented what you thought your club was all about.
Newcastle fans have been granted that wish this week and whilst part of me finds it highly amusing, there is a part of me that envies them.
Newcastle are currently in the relegation zone, two points adrift of Blackburn above them and two points clear of Middlesbrough below them. Whilst the phrase ‘they’re too big to go down’ has been banded about over the past few months, the truth is, no club is too big to go down. Having a stadium that seats over 52,000 fans won’t save you from relegation.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa are amongst their remaining games, as well as fellow relegation fighters Middlesbrough and Portsmouth. They have a tough task ahead of them and it is unusual that a man with no managerial experience would be appointed. He hasn’t even started his UEFA Pro Licence course and the closest he’s come to football management since retiring from playing is talking about managers on Match of the Day.
“Some of the ex-player, ex-manager pundits are the worst,” Ferguson said last week. “It’s a disgrace the way they sit there criticising guys they used to play with, just to make a bit of an impact. I couldn’t do that.”
Shearer is stepping up to the plate now, after repeatedly playing down speculation linking him to managing his former club, and all credit to him.
It has to be said that right now is the perfect time for Shearer to take over though because if Newcastle do go down, he can’t be held accountable given their situation at the time of him taking over, and if he keeps them up, his status in Geordie land would rise to unmeasurable realms.
Newcastle fans have been mocked over the years for their desperation to see Shearer appointed after another failed manager has been shown the door. If a manager with years of experience can’t win them anything, why would they think a complete novice like Shearer could?
However, it’s not necessarily his tactical ability that could save Newcastle, rather the effect he will have on the players and the fans. St James Park has had 4,000 empty seats on average this season, with their lowest attendance seeing 8,000 empty seats. Without question, every home game between now and the end of the season will be sold out. It could be argued that having a full stadium with fans cheering the team on could contribute to better performances. But Newcastle’s ground won’t be filled with just any fans, but deliriously happy fans who are all over-joyed to see their beloved idol in charge. The atmosphere will be immense and this should surely have a positive effect on the players and their performances.
The feeling around the city will be different, more hopeful and less depressed. The fans are not too chuffed with the ‘cockney mafia’ in charge of their club and these feelings will no doubt have filtered down to the players. Everyone connected with the club will certainly have plenty more to be cheerful about and winning the mental battle, having the belief that they will stay in the Premiership, might be all that is needed to separate them from the three teams that go down.
They’ve living the dream at the moment and whilst Shearer might not be the most practical decision, he certainly is the one they all wanted. Enjoy this feeling for as long as it lasts Geordies and until I see Cantona manning the dugout at Old Trafford, there will certainly be a part of me that is jealous of you.