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Tuesday, May 12, 1998 Published at 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK

Sport: Football

Shearer cleared in boot row
image: [ Neil Lennon lies on the ground after the kick ­ now judged accidental ]
Neil Lennon lies on the ground after the kick ­ now judged accidental

The England captain Alan Shearer has been found not guilty of deliberately kicking an opponent in the face.

He was cleared after a three-man FA commission heard evidence in his defence from Neil Lennon, the man on the receiving end of Shearer's boot.

Shearer has maintained his innocence since the incident was caught by TV cameras at the Newcastle United-Leicester City match at Filbert Street on April 29.

[ image: Shearer wanted the inquiry over as soon as possible]
Shearer wanted the inquiry over as soon as possible
The hearing was brought forward at Shearer's request. The verdict means he can prepare for Saturday's FA Cup final against Arsenal without the case hanging over him.

Shearer said: "I am delighted to have cleared my name and can now look forward to Saturday's Cup final and the countdown to the World Cup.

"I am pleased to put the record straight and in doing so clear my name. I was always confident that I would."

The FA panel viewed videos, which are understood to have included previously unseen film of the incident, and heard from Lennon before reaching its decision.

Match referee Martin Bodenham and assistant referee Alan Kaye gave evidence.

An FA statement said: "In reaching its decision the commission accepted that the incident was initially caused by Neil Lennon pulling at the shirt of Alan Shearer turning round and trapping his leg.

"The commission further accepted that the alleged incident of Alan Shearer swinging out with his left leg was a genuine attempt to free himself."

'Good guy vindicated'

Newcastle manager Kenny Dalglish said: "I can't understand why it had to go this far in the first place but it's done now and out of the road totally.

"He can concentrate on the FA Cup final and it proves that the good guy's been vindicated."

[ image: Lennon: gave evidence for Shearer]
Lennon: gave evidence for Shearer
Lennon added: "As far as I'm concerned, it was over and done with straight after the game. Other people have dragged it on."

There was disagreement from the start over whether the kick was deliberate.

During the match, the referee took no action, prompting complaints from Leicester City's manager Martin O'Neill. Lennon suffered a cut and bruising to his face.

Shearer apologised later and insisted that he meant no harm.

When the FA launched its inquiry, Glenn Hoddle defended Shearer. "I don't accept Alan would deliberately harm a fellow professional," he said.

Lennon also called for an end to what he saw as a witch-hunt against the captain.

A troubled year

The Lennon incident was the latest in a series of controversies following Shearer's return from injury earlier this year.

[ image: Coach Glenn Hoddle backed Shearer throughout]
Coach Glenn Hoddle backed Shearer throughout
Former Newcastle United directors Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd dubbed him "Mary Poppins" because of his apparent model behaviour.

But in February, Leeds' manager George Graham accused him of manhandling striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

In April, Shearer came under fire after Newcastle met Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs' manager Christian Gross said Shearer was responsible for breaking defender Ramon Vega's nose.

The disciplinary committee's verdict was originally worded as `not proven' but was amended to `not guilty' because a `not proven' verdict is normally only permissible under Scottish Law.

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