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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Sad farewell for Shearer
Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer after playing his last game for his country
Alan Shearer may have taken six months to decide to retire from international football, but it took only three minutes for the door to the office to slam shut behind him.

At 9.28pm Gateshead time, Shearer was an England player, at least for another five days.

By 9.31pm, after 63 games and 30 goals, it was all over.

One horrendous mistake from Phil Neville, one coolly-taken penalty, and England's skipper was Captain Courageous no more.


Shearer's England goals
Shearer scored 30 goals in 63 appearances
His first came on 19 February 1992 against France
His only hat-trick came against Luxembourg on 14 October 1998
He notched a brace on four separate occasions
A harsh way for such a distinguished international career to come to an end? In truth he'd been going out with a whimper for a long time.

Two goals in three games glossed over the deficiencies that had become so glaringly apparent in a player once thought of as the perfect all-round centre-forward.

Forget the penalty in the Romania game. Penalties are the McDonalds of a striker's diet - cheap fodder that anyone can put away.

Lorry drivers

Before the Germany game, Shearer had failed to score in eight games. Take away the three he put past the teachers and lorry-drivers of Luxembourg, and the cupboard looks even more bare.

Where once he could out-pace a defender, muscle them aside and use his strength to get the vital yard in the penalty area, he was reduced to tumbling for free-kicks that David Beckham could use.

A yellow card for diving was once as likely for Shearer as a shaved head for Seaman. But when one was given on Tuesday night, there were less protests than at a free money giveaway.

It was not age so much as the pace-sapping injuries that transformed him from Maserati to Mondeo.

Cruciate ligament damage, groin and ankle problems left their mark on a man who, at just 29, should have been looking forward to a joust at the 2002 World Cup.


Alan Shearer
At his peak in Euro 96
His goals-per-game ratio at the top level remains impressive, dropping just below a goal every two games, but the sneaking feeling remains that there could have been many more.

Shearer made his debut just eight years ago, after Dennis Wise, David Seaman, Martin Keown and Tony Adams.

Magnificent

Scoring on your debut for a poor England side that boasts Geoff Thomas as its midfield hub takes some doing, and Shearer in his pomp was magnificent.

But that pomp was all too short-lived.

In the four years after that debut, he scored just four more goals, two of which came in a friendly against the USA.

The glorious peak began on 8 June 1996 with a goal against Switzerland in the first match of Euro 96.

By 7 June 1997, he'd notched another 10, including two against Holland in the best England performance since 1966.

But by the World Cup in France, the signs of a slowdown were becoming apparent.

Revival

There was a revival under Bobby Robson at club level last season, but Shearer himself knew that international football was becoming a challenge too far.

Sensibly, he decided to quit while he was ahead.

As Bjorn Borg could tell you, it's better leaving at the top rather than struggling as a shadow of your former self.

Shearer, a staunch patriot, will be as devastated as anyone in the country that the final bars of his international swansong, when they came, were so flat and unexpected.

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See also:

21 Jun 00 | England
Shearer stands by quit decision
20 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Keegan refuses to make excuses
13 May 00 | Squad
Alan Shearer
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