Ryan Hildred looks at his Rovers childhood hero, Alan Shearer.
As a Rovers fan not native to Blackburn, Lancashire or even the North West, many people who meet me always act surprised when I tell them I support Rovers. When they ask why, the answer is simple – Alan Shearer.
Living in Lincoln at a time when Lincoln City were a mid-table side in the old Division 3, there was not the fanfare that now comes with the club that was started by the Cowley brothers. I also never had anyone in my family trying to ‘brainwash’ me into their club. Really, I was left to my own devices to fall in love with the game as I saw fit.
Now into my thirties, my first proper memories of football are the start of the Premier League in 92/93. Yes, I know football started before then and I wish I could remember more, but it’s the reality. I remember the excitement and the build-up to the upcoming first Premier League season and all the different clubs in it. Within time, I quickly latched onto a young England striker playing for a team that had a nice and unique blue and white kit. As a little boy, blue was unsurprisingly my favourite colour.
A couple of seasons passed and Shearer was still scoring goals and Blackburn Rovers were still doing well near the top of the league. It wasn’t long before I got my first shirt ready for the 94/95 season. I was made up!
Shearer kept scoring, Rovers kept winning and I enjoyed reinacting the two on my Mum’s and my next-door neighbour’s front gardens. Handily, we both had a goal and there was just a path between our adjoining houses which acted as a convenient half-way line for our ‘pitch’. On a Saturday, we would break briefly to check the scores on Ceefax, a memory my Mum holds dearly.
As an 8-year-old, if it even needed sealing, Rovers winning the league that season really had me hook, line and sinker and they’ve always been my club ever since. As I started my Sunday League youth football playing up front, Shearer, of course, was my idol to try and copy there too. When Rovers won, Shearer usually scored. Even when we didn’t he usually did! I always wanted to score goals like him. The blockbuster against QPR at home was the one I really tried to copy!
As my fully grown distance relationship with Rovers grew into the next season, I remember being so proud that Alan Shearer and Tim Flowers were in the England squad for Euro ’96. I proudly stuck the stickers in my Panini sticker album (which I still have!) and that tournament set something extra off in me football-wise too. It’s the first tournament I remember as England, of course, hadn’t taken part at the USA ’94 World Cup.
I remember all my family being so excited about the tournament, “Football’s Coming Home” and I loved watching every game I could. What made me even happier is that it was a Rovers striker scoring the goals as we went deeper into the tournament. Every time it flashed up with the caption on-screen “9 – Alan Shearer” and his club Blackburn Rovers underneath it made me smile. Even as a 9-year-old, it was clear to me how many people supported Liverpool and Manchester United and I liked supporting someone different – that still holds true today.
Sadly, we know it didn’t work out for England and not long after that, I got the worst news. I remember it vividly. My Mum told me my Uncle was on the phone and he told me “Alan Shearer had joined Newcastle”. As a 9-year-old nowhere near any rumour or newspaper, it was a bolt out of the blue. I sobbed my heart out as my hero had gone. I didn’t believe it until I read Ceefax myself.
I remember my Uncle asking me if I was going to support Newcastle now? Absolutely not, Shearer’s damage was done. He had started off my love affair with Rovers which, living in Lincoln with only two other fans I know, at times has been a lonely venture!
As Shearer started and finished his career at Newcastle, my heartbreak soon waned and new heroes emerged. But, it wasn’t until Matt Jansen that anyone got close to the level of idolism I felt for Shearer.
Shearer’s record speaks for itself and there was no point me in writing about the statistics or the goals in this piece. As a boy, I remember the hattricks, the headers, the celebration and the joy of winning a league. But Shearer was more than a hero to me; he was the one that set me on the path to something bigger. The ups, the downs, the tears and the joy of supporting Blackburn Rovers FC. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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