Without a Premier League victory in six matches, Graeme Souness was replaced by Glenn Roeder as Newcastle United manager, after a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City proved to be the final nail in the Scotsman's coffin. The atmosphere around the club at the time was strange, Alan Shearer had equalled Jackie Milburn's goalscoring record just a few short weeks before against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup. Though Newcastle's league form was poor and saw the Magpies languishing in 15th place, just 6 points above the relegation zone.
It was a normal match day routine for me and my Dad as we walked along the Quayside with a coffee, and a sausage roll that was so hot it felt like it burnt our tongues off! We then made our way to the Strawberry for something a lot stronger than a cup of coffee. My Dad and I discussed what the rest of the season might hold for the Toon under Roeder. We wondered if today would be the day that Shearer would break the record. "It'd be great if he could do it in front of us in the Gallowgate", my Dad exclaimed. The atmosphere continued to build, Newcastle Brown after Newcastle Brown, the vocal cords began to warm up.
"I think today's the day!", one man shouted while kissing his bet slip, with Shearer to score anytime written on it. There was a sense of anticipation building in the air, more and more people convincing themselves that our local hero would break the record.
After three final Newcastle Brown's, we took our usual seats in the Gallowgate. All around us people were wondering whether Shearer could get that goal. "What d'ya reckon lads, will he do it today?", one man asked nervously.
Despite a tense opening period to the game, Newcastle United started to get into their stride. Confidence levels began to rise with every completed pass and shot on target, Roeder's men looked a completely different side to the one embarrassed by Manchester City just a few days before. Nolberto Solano whipped in a dangerous cross, Shearer met it but was denied by a stunning save by Dean Kiely. Cries of "YEEAAAAH!" were quickly followed but "AWWWH!" In those few seconds, the whole of St James' Park thought Shearer had done it. Charles N'Zogbia was on hand to slot the ball home after Kiely's heroics had denied Newcastle's number nine.
"We should've sacked Souness earlier, we've not played this well all season!" One man shouted excitedly from the row behind, as the players disappeared down the tunnel following the half-time whistle.
Much of Newcastle's play stemmed from the impressive Scott Parker, the midfielder broke up play before the ball reached Shay Given. The Irishman launched the ball forward, Shearer rose expertly to win the header against Andy O'Brien. Shola Ameobi neatly flicked the ball back into Shearer's path. "Go on!" Time seemed to stop as Shearer raced through on goal. The ball didn't have the chance to hit the back of the net before St James' Park erupted... "YEEEEEEAH!" My Dad and I were jumping up and down, hugging, screaming and laughing with pure excitement as Shearer wheeled away with his arm aloft.
I can still hear the announcement through the deafening Geordie roar, "Scoring our second goal and beating Jackie Milburn's record, and now our all-time leading goalscorer... NUMBER NINE ALAAAN SHEEEARER!"
"Shearer, Shearer, Shearer!" were the cheers from the stands. Most goals are celebrated for a few minutes before a moment of calm descends on the stadium for the restart. Shearer's 201st goal for Newcastle was completely different, the celebrations continued beyond the final whistle. More chants of our local hero's name reverberated around the ground, history was made and there was an atmosphere to match the occasion.
The final whistle was greeted by a crescendo of noise from the stands, yet more chants of "Shearer, Shearer, Shearer!" It made the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end. A special player who deserved a special atmosphere. The celebrations continued as we left St James' Park, there were people entering bars, on buses, in taxis and on trains all singing one man's name.
As me and my Dad walked along the Quayside with a burger in hand, looking out at the beautiful Newcastle scenery, we were giddy that we had witnessed history. "I bet that bloke is still kissing his bet slip" My Dad said as we continued our walk home. I've yet to witness a similar atmosphere to that day at St James' Park again, some come fairly close but the sheer noise and jubilation created by our famous number nine, sticking the ball in the back of the net for the 201st time was simply spine-tingling.
*Help the Alan Shearer Foundation by entering the prize draw to win Shearer’s match shirt, boots and captain’s armband from when he scored his 250th Premier League goal. Get involved by following the link below.