As a Newcastle fan and someone who has spent a majority of their life watching Alan Shearer bang ‘em in for Newcastle, Blackburn, Southampton and England, I was pretty sure I had witnessed Shearer score every type of goal conceivable. Headers, volleys, free kicks, penalties, long-range drives, and poachers’ tap-ins; whether it be against Aston Villa or Argentina, nothing could surprise me when it came to Big Al. Or so I thought.
After watching Alan Shearer score goal after goal after goal, I'm a little ashamed to say that after more than a decade as the Premier League's top marksman; I had perhaps begun to take the great man’s quality for granted. That changed in November 2002 when Alan pulled something extra special out of the bag and produced a goal, which I, along with 52,000 others that were present, will never forget. A goal that very few players in world football were/are capable of. A goal that is to this day the best goal I have ever seen in the flesh.
In a deeply forgettable and drab encounter at St. James Park against a typically dogged and organised Everton team, the home side were 0-1 down with only five minutes remaining. In order to salvage something from this most uninspiring of match-ups it was going to take something ultra-special.
In the 84th minute Laurent Robert hit a rather hopeful long ball up front without any real expectation. In one of few useful things that Shola Ameobi has done in his twelve years as a Newcastle player, he then managed to leap like the proverbial salmon, getting his head on it and nodding the ball down toward the on-rushing Shearer. What Shearer produced next was truly out the top draw.
As the ball dropped perfectly off the head of Ameobi from about twenty-five yards out, Big Al's eyes lit up. Without a split seconds hesitation, Shearer ran on to the knock down and hit the sweetest and hardest struck volley I have ever seen.
The ball left Shearer's boot like a heat guided missile and flew unstoppably toward the top right hand corner of the Gallowgate end goal. In the blink of an eye the ball had cracked into the top corner of Richard Wright's net leaving the goalkeeper completely and utterly redundant.
Unlike a mazy dribble or flowing passing move, there is something brilliantly manic about a volley that sets them apart. They're thunderous, they're instantaneous and wonderfully they take you completely by surprise. From despair to jubilation in a second.
Shearer's volley was of highest order, the sort of goal that takes you from being planted firmly in your seat to leaping mid-air and screaming at the top of your lungs in a single heartbeat. Out of nowhere, 52,000 Geordies went from a group of slightly frustrated, cold and annoyed off fans to a screaming mass of adrenalin fuelled maniacs all as one.
Its goals and moments like that that make you remember why you do it. Why you go back time and again after numerous heartbreaks, why you stay until the 94th minute only to be left disappointed. They don’t happen often (and certainly not at St James’ Park!), but when they do, they make you realise that all those dark days and awful games were worthwhile.
Such was the quality of the goal, you don’t see too many strikes like Shearer produced that day, but that’s why we hold them so special. When one of the world’s best players produces something that rest of us mere mortals can only dream of, then we are then duty bound by our love of the sport to cherish it. Eleven years later I still cherish this goal, and furthermore, to this day it is still the best goal I ever seen with my own eyes.
Christ, what I would give to have Alan Shearer in his prime back in our team now.