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7th August 1996: When Shearer Was Unveiled to 20,000 Geordies at St James' Park

Most football fans are excited at the prospect of their club signing a world-class player and they will turn out in force to welcome that player when the deal is done.

However, Newcastle United signing Alan Shearer wasn't just any other transfer deal. This was a transfer like no other.

Let's look back at the day Alan Shearer was unveiled to 20,000 jubilant Geordies as he returned home.

The Stadium

Originally a patch of sloping grazing land, St James' Park in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne was first used as a football stadium in 1880. It became the home of Newcastle United in 1892, when Newcastle West End, who had played at the stadium from 1886, merged with Newcastle East End.

Its use as a football stadium and several proposed plans for expansion has caused several rifts with local residents and the council, which has led to the stadium today appearing lop-sided from above. The asymmetrical stands look like they don't match up to each other, which gives it an odd appearance.

The stadium was only expanded slightly until the early 1990's but former chairman Sir John Hall decided upon a full modification of the ground and invested heavily. This was done in time for Newcastle's Premiership debut in 1993 and the ground had a capacity of 36,610 in 1995.

Further expansion has been carried out since then and the capacity of the stadium currently sits at over 52,000.

The Player

Alan Shearer was a Newcastle-born lad who got the chance of making it big when a scout from Southampton spotted him playing for Wallsend Boys Club.

He made his professional debut for Southampton at the age of seventeen and then became the youngest player to ever score a top-flight hat-trick on his full debut for the club against Arsenal.

It was clear from the start that Shearer was something special, which led to Blackburn Rovers paying an English record transfer fee of £3.6 million for him in 1992. He was prolific in front of goal for Blackburn, netting 112 league goals in just 138 appearances for them across four seasons.

His strike partnership with Chris Sutton fired them to the Premier League title in 1995, with Shearer scoring thirty-four goals in a partnership that returned forty-nine that season.

The following season, he netted another thirty-one goals but suffered injury towards the end of the season and Blackburn finished seventh.

At the 1996 European Championships in England, Shearer really hit the heights and was taken to the hearts of every English football fan as he finished the tournament as top scorer and helped his country reach the semi finals before an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany at Wembley.

After this tournament, Alex Ferguson was keen to take Shearer to English league champions Manchester United. He chose instead to sign for his boyhood club Newcastle United for a world record transfer fee of £15m, which it is estimated would be worth around £200m in today's transfer market according to this blog post on the Betway website.

Alan' Shearer's value today
It's estimated that Alan Shearer would be worth around £200m today's market

The Event

The 7th August 1996 was a day that will be remembered forever by everyone in Newcastle, as Shearer returned home.

After a press conference inside the stadium, to unveil the player to the press, Shearer stepped out on to a platform above approximately 20,000 extremely excited Geordies who had come to welcome their new hero.

Chants of "Shearer, Shearer" and "He's Coming Home, He's Coming Home, He's Coming, Shearer's Coming Home", filled the air as Shearer waved to his new admirers whilst wearing the famous black and white shirt.

The sheet metal-worker's son from Newcastle had returned home, with silverware on his mind, and the fans loved it.

The Aftermath

Shearer made his debut for Newcastle just a few days later, in a 4-0 Community Shield defeat to United, and was also on the losing side in his league debut away at Everton a week later.

However, his first match as a Newcastle player at St James' Park ended in victory, with Shearer netting the second in a 2-0 win over Wimbledon.

On 2 February 1997, Shearer hit the headlines with a fantastic thirteen-minute hat-trick to give Newcastle a 4-3 win at home to Leicester City, despite them being 3-1 down with thirteen minutes remaining.

At the end of his first season at Newcastle, Shearer had finished Premier League top scorer for a third consecutive season with twenty-five league goals.

Alan Shearer's Testimonial at St James' Park
Alan Shearer's Testimonial at St James' Park. Photo source: "100_1841" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Glasgow Celtic, Via Wikimedia Commons

Shearer remained at Newcastle until his retirement from football in 2006, scoring a total of 206 goals in all competitions. Unfortunately, his dream of winning silverware with his hometown club never came to fruition.

He is the top scorer in Newcastle United's history but the best he could help them manage with regards success was a second-place finish in the Premier League and reaching two FA Cup finals.

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