Is Shearer king of the Newcastle?
That the new castle to which the city owes its name is now 929 years old is not Newcastle's only temporal oddity. Dominating the skyline above the medieval keep is St. James' Park -- home of Newcastle United -- a rare place where time's normally linear passage takes peculiar cyclical paths.
Unusual in having a downtown location, St. James' Park is very much the contemporary focus of the "Geordie nation," the aluminum-clad temple of a culturally distinct and warmly introspective maritime city with a rich history of working-class folk heroes.
And it was here on Wednesday that the crowds gathered to welcome local hero
But we've been here before.
Keegan's heart-on-his sleeve passion and swashbuckling goal-getting tactics, combined with two Premier League runner-up finishes, ensured his hero status remained intact when he walked out of the club in '97 and again after a second brief stint as manager last year.
Between those spells, the only manager Newcastle fans espoused was
With the local connection already in place, and with owner
We think he'll do it; Shearer does, too. Before accepting the job, he must have calculated positively the chances of receiving a $1.5 million bonus and unlimited adulation on offer for keeping Newcastle in the EPL. Relegation would tarnish his cherished love affair with the club and city.
Though appointed on April 1, Shearer is no one's fool. Three of Newcastle's remaining home fixtures are against Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Fulham. Wins against these relatively weak sides -- two also are battling against relegation, while Fulham's away form is poor -- would leave Newcastle's comparatively strong squad possibly just needing one further win to stay up. Next Saturday's trip to Stoke will be watched keenly.
Already on the training pitch, his players appear reinvigorated, responding to Shearer's rousing enthusiasm and obsession with excellence. If he can revive the scoring fortunes of
In-form Chelsea's visit will be Shearer's first game in charge. Like the new castle below, St. James' is no longer a fortress, but a now rare sellout crowd will help plaster the cracks. And Shearer, like the rest of his "Toon army," gladly will take a draw.
If Shearer were still playing, Ashley wouldn't have been the only person banging down his door this week. England boss
"Crouchigol" repaid Capello's faith, calming a nervous England in the 29th minute on Wednesday by hooking in a right foot volley to put England into the lead. More impressively, Crouch added a
Although Crouch's antics lightened the mood, England looked nervous at times, giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions, and seemed unable to kill the game off. Chelsea castoff
The Ukrainian's goal ignited the Wembley crowd, and spurred England to push strongly for the winning goal. This contrasted with the
After a performance that was at times poor, the players were jubilant in victory and even brought a rare show of emotion from the usually emotionless Capello, who clenched his fists and punched the air upon hearing the final whistle. Fans won't walk away from the game overjoyed with the way the team played, but will be happy that England now looks like a side that has the confidence and tactical nous to win games when things are against it. As Capello put it, "I said we need to 'win ugly' sometimes, and we did."
England's so far flawless qualification campaign means it now has one foot on the plane to South Africa, and should pick up six more points from its next two games against Kazakhstan and Andorra.
Despite all the positives, there are still some worries throughout the side.
On the right wing,
Also still cause for concern is
Last time around, we asked for your thoughts on this year's Champions League draw and how you think it'll pan out for the EPL clubs.
We think Arsenal will be a tougher proposition than you suggest Alex, but with
Is Drew right? Will United's blip in form continue and Liverpool's upturn continue to see the Reds crowned EPL champions? Let us know at the usual address: