IT was a Freudian slip of epic proportions, one which perhaps revealed Alan Shearer wished he was back on the Match of the Day sofa, rather than watching a Newcastle performance best viewed from behind one.
“When Newcastle...,” he said, still firmly in pundit mode as he began his post-match inquest. “I mean when we’ve conceded a goal, we’ve quickly gone on to concede another.”
There was no Alan Hansen or Mark Lawrenson for pally company in front of the cameras this time, no Gary Lineker directing full-toss questions his way. Just Alan Shearer, facing the music, on his own. No sofa. So far, so bad, actually.
“I don’t work for the BBC any more,” he quickly added, as if trying to convince himself more than his inquisitors. Just to remind himself of his new job title, he confirmed: “I work for Newcastle United.”
Yes, Alan, you do, and unfortunately there’s no escape for the remaining seven games of the season after the new Messiah saw just how much of a godforsaken mess Newcastle are in.
Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda scored the goals in the space of nine second-half minutes to secure for Chelsea a comprehensive, fully merited victory at a sold-out though strangely muted St James’ Park.
That was in part due to a conscious decision by Shearer not to stir the natives by milking the applause before the game, instead opting to squeeze past the phalanx of photographers and straight into his dug-out. In terms of making life just a little more difficult for Chelsea, it was a missed opportunity.
“I wanted to get away from that and I didn’t think it was right,” he insisted. Shearer continues with his ‘it’s not all about me’ mantra, but, in truth, that is exactly what it is all about.
“I thought there would have been more noise from the crowd,” conceded Lampard, who by no means has given up on Chelsea’s title hopes. “It’s still all to play for,” he insisted.
Mathematically, Newcastle, too, have it all to play for, but their ambitions are the polar opposite to those harboured by their visitors. Stoke is the next port of call, where the impact of a full week’s training under the new manager will be revealed.
The urgency with which they must improve was perhaps betrayed by Shearer calling his squad in for training yesterday.
“We need to stop giving away silly goals,” he admitted. He can help that by dropping the hapless Fabricio Coloccini, the £10m Argentine defender who doesn’t deserve the ‘m’ after his value, and whose latest gaffe in an error-prone campaign gifted the opening goal.
Peter Lovenkrands, carried from the field with breathing difficulties on Saturday, is making good progress but is another who is unlikely to figure at the weekend.
Options are one thing, but Newcastle have won just once in 15 games, they’ve failed to beat anyone at St James’ Park since December 21 and, despite the positives Shearer attempted to take, confidence is at its lowest ebb as the club faces relegation for the first time since 1989.
If there’s one thing worse than that for Newcastle supporters, it’s the fact that it’s likely to happen despite the belated return of Shearer, their Geordie deity. The supposed savour taking the club into the Championship? It’s salt-in-the-wounds stuff.
The frustration felt by the man whose influence on games during his illustrious playing career was often palpable must be intense.
How about putting his boots back on? He could hardly be less mobile than Kevin Nolan and Nicky Butt, the Newcastle midfield duo utterly out-classed by Lampard on his own.
“Have you seen the speed at which John Terry and Michael Owen run away? And have you seen my knee lately?” he asked, only half-jokingly.
“Of course you’re there kicking every ball because it’s different and it’s frustrating, and I must apologise about my language on the touchline.”
If ever there was an excuse for dipping into an industrial vocabulary, then being forced to watch Newcastle on Saturday was it.
There was little need for Guus Hiddink to turn to expletives as Chelsea strolled to a victory which should have at least been made slightly more tense by a late Michael Owen consolation goal — replays showing the forward’s effort had gone over the line as Ashley Cole cleared.
Hiddink was instead left with plenty of time to offer consolation and solace to his opposite number.
“They showed in parts of the game that they have enough to gather points in their remaining matches,” he offered.
On the evidence of this disjointed 90 minutes, it was a viewpoint with which it’s difficult to concur. Whatever points are garnered under Shearer are likely to fall into the category of too little, too late.
Still, the temporary manager can comfort himself that if and when the unthinkable happens, he can walk away, reputation — just about — intact due to the damage this season already having been done long before his arrival.
A return to the cosy confines of the pundits’ couch — or should that be fence, considering where many of his views sit — awaits.
Thoughts of the day job were never too far away. “I might sit down and watch Match of the Day tonight with a beer,” he revealed afterwards.
Considering what he’d just witnessed, something a lot stronger would have been far more appropriate.
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire) 6: Effective display from start to finish, although let down by his assistant with Owen’s ‘goal’ that never was.
MATCH RATING: ** A strangely muted atmosphere given Alan Shearer’s arrival. The nagging feeling that Chelsea were always going to win at a canter proved correct.
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