It’s a select club. The likes of Shay Given, Joey Barton, Damien Duff and myself. Lads who’ve been coached briefly by Alan Shearer, writes Larry Ryan.
“Well done, big man,” Shearer says compassionately, as I stumble through the last few box jumps of a four-minute block.
He shows how it’s done; on the screens his heart-rate well in the red zone; ploughing into his work as if charging for the back stick, eyes fixed for that perfect flight.
The former England captain is showcasing Speedflex, a circuit-based training gym new to The Health Club at The Kingsley hotel in Cork city.
He was among the company’s founders in 2011 and the brand has spread across the UK before arriving in Ireland for the first time.
Now he’s brand ambassador and walking advert. The workouts have Shearer in such good nick, at 46, you’re tempted to think he could still do a job, certainly if they rested him in the FA Cup.
“Nah, the knees and ankles and the back, everything. That’s why I do this. I do it two, three, sometimes four times a week. It works and it’s quick. I drop the little lad to school and do it for half an hour.”
As comfortable as he looked delivering a debrief to a gym of shattered journalists, he’s not likely to be adding to his eight-game managerial career, even if the headlines screamed, after Euro 2016, his interest in taking over from Roy Hodgson.
“I didn’t necessarily say I’d take it. I said I’d speak to them (the FA) and give them my opinions. Which I did. I’m delighted they’ve given it to Gareth, someone young, fresh, energetic.
“I very much doubt it I’ll go back. I love what I do now. I’ve knuckled down into the media world.”
In our chat, Shearer used the phrase “you find a way” five times. A neat summary of the most resourceful of careers.
A traditional centre-forward you could turn to in any kind of crisis. Ask him to hold it up, go behind, bulldoze, run the channels, head it, knock the leather off a free-kick.
“I scored over 30 league goals for three consecutive seasons with Blackburn, which I’m not sure anybody has done. But my role slightly changed towards my late 20s and early 30s. I had to change my game because of the serious injuries I had. I’d lost a half hard of pace. But I was aware of that. And I found a way.
“I still continued to score goals. Not as prolific, but I used to bag 20 goals on a regular basis. And there’s not so many players that do that nowadays.”
The classic Shearer is almost an endangered species, in a world of gegenpressing and false nines and front men asked to put in their shift on the left or right of a three.
“There’s not a lot of them. Aguero can do all of those things you mentioned. Ronaldo can. They are out there, but they cost a lot of money. Costa and Kane can do a bit of both. Costa, when his mind is right, and it has been all this season, I think has been the best player in the Premier League this season.”
This season, Shearer dipped a toe in the age-old debate: Who is world class? What is top top? He drew the wrath of Arsenal fans by ruling Alexis Sanchez out of that bracket and suggesting Aguero was the Premier League’s true world class talent.
By that yardstick, was he world class himself?
“I would never say that. I’d leave it to other people. I’m proud of my record. I’m proud of how far in front I am (in Premier League goals scored). I couldn’t have done any better. I wasn’t the best as a 16-year-old, but I was the hardest worker. That’s why I got to the top, because I was a harder worker than anyone else. And I was prepared to sacrifice other things.”
John Giles, who spends more time than most pondering these kinds of classification, describes Shearer as a “genuine player”, preferring to speculate as to how great he’d have become had he gone to Manchester United instead of Newcastle.
“People often get criticised for lack of love and passion and commitment and loyalty in football. And it makes me laugh that, people saying ‘oh he should have gone to United.’ But I went home. I was loyal. You can’t have it both ways.
“If you look at those great players who were at United, you could ask would they have been as successful and scored as many goals if they weren’t playing in such a good team.”
As Gilesy put it, in The Great and the Good: “He wanted more than anything else to be the Newcastle number nine. We all have our dream, it is the dream that drives you. Shearer held onto his dream and made it come true. That is no small reward.”
Iconic reward was the 20,000 fans who met him in the rain at St James’ Park. “It shouldn’t have amazed me, but it did. They’re just football daft in the northeast. I wouldn’t change it. I did what I wanted to do. I lived my dream.”
Rio Ferdinand, in his book 2Sides, is interesting on Shearer. “He is one you couldn’t read. With 90% or 95% of strikers you can see if they’ve mentally thrown in the towel. But guys like that… you just never knew.”
Did he work on the poker face?
“I don’t think you should ever let your opponents know what you’re thinking or feeling. Half the time I might have been knackered. But you can never show that. You got to try and stay one step ahead. I always gave as good as I got, I think.”
Rio, mind you, was less impressed with Shearer the team-mate.
“I’d played with him about 10 or 15 times for England, but I’d never had a conversation with him. I always found Alan Shearer a bit cold.”
And then, one day, Rio joined Shearer at the BBC. “I don’t know what to expect, but he was one of the nicest people... He made me feel so welcome. He was relaxed and at ease with himself. If I needed advice, he was there.”
Has it become easier to lower the guard since he retired?
“Definitely, yeah. It’s difficult, and it might still be with England, I don’t know, but you’re trying to kick each other every Saturday and two months after that, you’re meant to be a team-mate and being all nice and friendly. I found it hard to switch off.
“But once you finish playing, you meet up with all your old enemies and you don’t have to kick them again the following week. And I enjoy that. It is a lot easier to get on with them.”
In 2000, Jonathan Liew of The Telegraph described Shearer the pundit as “a very large, very well-paid child who is somehow directed every Saturday night to a sofa and filmed for television.”
It was among the more cutting swipes in a swathe of vitriolic criticism of his Match of the Day work.
But Shearer was, as Arsene Wenger might describe it, punditing with the handbrake on.
“I always held back because I thought I was going into management. If you criticise too much, and then you go back, you look like a bit of an idiot. It was a conscious decision. I don’t think you can come out of football and within two years be telling everyone what to do and what they’ve done wrong.
“But four or five years ago, the penny dropped, and I thought, you know what, I don’t want to do it. I’m going to stick to punditry, work hard at it, knuckle down, take advice, learn and that’s what I’ve done.”
Finding a way.
New to The Health Club at The Kingsley, Cork city and never seen before in Ireland, Speedflex is a unique, results-driven, circuit-based training concept which will transform your exercise regime, and help you achieve your goals. Pictured at the launch of Speedflex at The Kingsley is brand ambassador Alan Shearer. thekingsley.ie/health-club speedflex.com
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