Alan Shearer leads tributes to former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd
Alan Shearer has led the tributes to former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd following his death at the age of 75.
Shepherd engineered the £15million deal which took Shearer from Blackburn back to his native Newcastle in July 1996, and the former England striker remains grateful to this day that he did.
The Match of the Day pundit said in a Twitter post: "So sad to hear my great friend and former @NUFC chairman Freddy Shepherd has passed away. I owe him a huge debt for bringing me home. RIP."
Geordie businessman Shepherd spent 15 years as a director at St James' Park, serving under Sir John Hall as vice-chairman before eventually taking over the hot seat in his own right in 1997 and presiding over one of the most thrilling episodes in the club's modern history.
Current managing director Lee Charnley, who worked under Shepherd, said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of Freddy's passing today.
"He was an incredibly passionate supporter of Newcastle United and maintained that love for the club even after he stood down as chairman.
"During his time at the club as both a director and chairman, he had a big part to play in the club's modern-day history and was a driving force in the redevelopment of our stadium and expanding its capacity to more than 52,000.
"He had a huge passion not just for the club, but for the city and region it represents.
"Our thoughts at this time are of course with his family and friends."
Colombian striker Faustino Asprilla, who famously scored a hat-trick in Newcastle's 3-2 Champions League win over Barcelona in 1997, tweeted: "Very sad to wake to the news about former @NUFC chairman Freddy Shepherd passing away. My condolences to his family and friends."
During Shepherd's time at Newcastle, the club twice finished as Premier League runners-up, reached two FA Cup finals and enjoyed two Champions League campaigns.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: "I am very sorry to hear the sad news about Freddy Shepherd and my thoughts are with his family and friends.
"He was a big character and a huge supporter of his beloved Newcastle United, the city itself and of the Premier League. A great guy to have in your corner, he will be missed."
There was a tribute too from arch-rivals Sunderland, who tweeted: "The thoughts of #SAFC are with the family and friends of Freddy Shepherd."
Perhaps Shepherd's most tangible achievement was the redevelopment of St James' Park from an ageing 36,000-capacity stadium to a modern venue which now holds 52,000 spectators.
Under his tenure, the Magpies came as close as they have to rekindling their glory days, although their wait for a first domestic trophy since 1955 and any major silverware since 1969 is ongoing despite the thrilling reigns of Kevin Keegan and the late Sir Bobby Robson.
Shepherd died peacefully at home on Monday evening. He is survived by his wife Lorelle and their three sons Charles, Kenneth and Warwick.
A statement issued by Mrs Shepherd, her sons, Shepherd's brother Bruce and the immediate family said: "On behalf of all the family, we would like to thank the many people who have paid their respects and sent condolences since learning of Freddy's passing.
"Some of these messages are from people that Freddy knew from his time in football. Some are from people he has known through the family business. But the vast majority are from people throughout the North East and Newcastle in particular.
"It is a great comfort to us, his family, to know how much he was loved and admired by the people he spent his life supporting and promoting. Freddy, no doubt, would have been both humbled and proud.
"Freddy's favourite moments were watching his beloved Newcastle United and he followed them from the Gallowgate End as a supporter, to the boardroom as the owner. He always had enormous pride in the club.
"To the wider public he was Freddy Shepherd, chairman of Newcastle United and the Shepherd Offshore Group. But to us he was also a husband, dad, grandfather and uncle whom we all miss.
"We are devastated by his sudden passing on Monday evening."
Shepherd, the owner and managing director of the Shepherd Offshore Group for more than 40 years, spent a decade at the Newcastle helm after initially answering Hall's call to arms along with his brother.
He reluctantly sold his 28.01 per cent shareholding in the club to current owner Mike Ashley in June 2007 after the sportswear magnate had already bought out the Hall family.