Mixed reaction as £250k statue of Alan Shearer is unveiled outside St James' Park
A 9ft 6ins brass statue of Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer was on Monday unveiled outside St James' Park. Named 'Local Hero', the statue was uncovered by Shearer himself, as the Mark Knopfler song Local Hero was played over loudspeakers.
Shearer, who was born locally in Gosforth but who played for Southampton and Blackburn before securing a move to his beloved home-town club, scored 206 goals in 10 years with the Magpies. He also briefly became manager in 2009, failing to arrest a slump of form which ended with the club dropping into the Championship.
Unsurprisingly then, the statue commemorates Shearer the player rather than Shearer the manager, with Northumberland artist Tom Maley depicting the striker's famous, if not especially inventive, hand-in-the-air goal celebration.
The statue cost £250,000 (or approximately 1/120th of the sum raised when Newcastle sold Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham Hotspur) but was not paid for by the club. Instead, the family of former chairman Freddy Shepherd raised the cash for the bronze big 'Al, with Shepherd telling reporters that the statue would honour the striker's "unique career".
"Alan was one of the greatest players ever to wear a Newcastle shirt," Shepherd, the man responsible for bringing Shearer to the club in 1996 for a then record-fee of £15million, told reporters.
"It is now 10 years since he retired and our family decided that fans shouldn't have to wait any longer for his unique career to be properly recognised.
"We are proud and delighted to have been able to create a lasting monument to not only a great footballer, but also a fine man who has done so much for the communities in Newcastle through his charity work."
Hundreds of fans turned out to watch the unveiling, with former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan and former coach Terry McDermott joining Shearer as the covering was taken off.
“It gives me incredible feelings, pleasure and pride to see the statue when I come down the road past the ground,” Shearer said as he stood in front of the new statue and addressed the crowd.
Current Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley was however conspicuous by his absence. The club did not make any contribution to the £250,000 cost of the statue, and are yet to make an official comment on the work.
Predictably, reaction to the statue was mixed on Twitter. Much of the debate was around whether the correct pose had been picked, with Maley choosing to immortalise Shearer's later one-finger-in-the-air celebration, as opposed to his earlier whole-hand-in-the-air effort.
Controversial scenes in Newcastle as Shearer statue unveiled with one finger raised instead of entire hand https://t.co/OeeSfZT47L— JJ Bull (@jj_bull) September 12, 2016
@alanshearer Is the middle finger salute in the direction of Sunderland?— Jon Bergdahl ن (@JonBergdahl) September 12, 2016
While others were more pre-occupied with attempting to work out who it most resembled:
@alanshearer is that Nigel Pearson?!— matt simpson (@simpson4889) September 12, 2016
Is that an Alan Shearer or Nigel Pearson statue unveiled at St James' Park today? pic.twitter.com/dQfyiL0Cxw— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) September 12, 2016
One thing is for sure — the statue is some way off joining the revered pantheon of football statue greats which, of course, will ever include this beautiful effort from former Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed: