Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Only Keegan or Shearer will make the Toon Army happy

I'M not being wise after the event but I always felt there was going to be trouble ahead when Sam Allardyce was appointed manager of Newcastle United.

I remember writing it at the time.

Not because Allardyce is a poor boss, but because I wasn't convinced the Toon Army would take to him or his style of football that was so successful at Bolton for many years.

At the Reebok stadium, the fans were just happy to record any sort of win. A scrappy victory would do for them.

And under Sam they enjoyed quite a few, including against Manchester United and Liverpool and especially Arsenal who could not handle the physical approach employed by Allardyce's players.

Newcastle followers, though, are different animals.

They don't just want to win - they want to win with style.

Indeed such is the Geordie obsession with fantasy football that I reckon there are many members of the Toon Army who would prefer to lose 5-4 in a thriller than draw 0-0.

You aren't going to lift many trophies with that attitude.

And let's face it, Newcastle haven't.

A debate has raged ever since Allardyce's sacking last week relating to whether Newcastle are a big club.

In name only in my book.

Sure, they have a passionate support who pack into St James' Park every other week and a proud history, not to mention numerous famous past players, but the bottom line is they haven't won anything for years.

I'd say that is a reasonable requirement to ensure big club status.

Not since 1969, when Newcastle claimed the Fairs Cup, have the Magpies lifted silver.

Just for the record that's almost 40 years!

The man who went closest to ending that agony was, of course, Kevin Keegan.

Now there's the type of man who the Geordies can relate to. A guy, who they believe, feels their pain and shares their passion for the club.

And he played football with a devil may care attitude. You score five, we'll score six. Although it didn't always work out that way.

Still, the Toon Army loved him.

I would wager that if charismatic Kevin, even though he has been out of the game for a few years, was brought back there would be thousands inside the stadium hailing the return of the prodigal son.

The only other man that would make them happy is Alan Shearer - the favourite Geordie son.

One of their own, who turned down guaranteed medals at Manchester United to follow his heart and join his beloved Newcastle, where he scored goal after goal after goal.

Forget the fact that Shearer has never managed a team in his life at a time when the club really could do with some experience.

Shearer would have the longest honeymoon period in history.

Had Harry Redknapp - a millionaire who didn't need the mega-bucks being offered - gone there, he knows that after a couple of defeats the fans would have been on his back.

It happened to Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness and it would have happened to him.

In fact it will happen to anyone apart from Shearer or Keegan.

Why Nigel should be whistling Dixie

YEARS and years ago I went to watch a young lad play in Lisburn.

I had heard he was something special. Dean Shiels, nicknamed Dixie, was the kid's name.

He was scoring goals for fun and had a footballing pedigree as his dad was a certain Kenny Shiels - then an outspoken Irish League manager, now in charge of youth football at Tranmere.

Watching Dixie that day in Lisburn, without question you could tell he was special.

While all the other young boys would run towards the ball, Dean showed maturity beyond his tender 12 years by taking up positions, where more often than not the ball would arrive - allowing him to stick it in the net.

Anyone who saw him back then would have predicted he would enjoy a fine career - more so when he joined Arsenal as a teenager in 2003.

It didn't quite work out for Dean at the north London club, but not surprisingly he will tell you he learned a lot.

He moved to Hibs in 2004 and while he showed flashes of his brilliance, earning him a Northern Ireland cap, they were few and far between.

The reason for that was explained in 2006 when Dean had an operation to remove his right eye.

He had been blind in that eye following a domestic accident when he was just eight years old.

Back in 2006 the eye had started to give him headaches and other problems. The medical advice was to have surgery.

Never one to make a fuss about the problem, Dean had decided to get on with his life and his football before the operation. It has been the same since.

After returning to first team action later that year, Dixie has been out of the Hibs side recently.

He returned on Saturday hitting a fantastic hat-trick for Hibs against Inverness CT in the Scottish Cup in a 3-0 win.

And now Dean could get the chance to take on Rangers in the next round.

The boy is back and if he keeps scoring he might just fight his way into Nigel Worthington's Northern Ireland plans.

I'd love to see it. Dixie has shown great character - his is a real story of triumph over adversity.

Belfast Telegraph


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