The greatest goal scorer in the history of the Premier League did his best to get one of his old clubs a new fan on Friday. Alan Shearer, who scored 260 goals in his PL career for Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United from 1992-2006, is in Los Angeles for Premier League Fan Fest, the product of NBC Sports and the league teaming up to bring the beautiful game to cities in the United States.
While there, Shearer met with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a well-documented supporter of Liverpool. Their half-hour meeting involved a pitch to get Schwarzenegger to embrace Newcastle, and while the pair did pose for a photo of The Terminator holding a shirt, Shearer is brutally honest in how he thinks his pitch went.
“I don’t think it worked,” Shearer tells Uproxx Sports.
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) October 22, 2021
Shearer usually spends a whole heck of a lot of time talking about Newcastle — he’s the greatest player in club history and was part of the inaugural class of Premier League Hall of Fame inductees in large part due to his excellence as a Magpie — but that’s been ramped up lately, as the club came under new ownership through a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s government and its sovereign wealth fund. He has acknowledged that he has reservations about the takeover, but he’s excited for long-suffering fans of Newcastle to see their loyalty rewarded by owners who do everything they can to support the club.
On Friday, Uproxx Sports caught up with Shearer to talk Newcastle, the perceived title contenders in the Premier League this season, the early season struggles of two of the greatest English goal scorers of the current era, and more.
What are you going to be doing in Los Angeles this weekend?
Engaging with the fans of the Premier League and all the different football clubs. It’s great to be a part of it, and it’s great see how diehard of supporters they are — they have to be to get up at stupid o’clock to watch their teams do it. So, we’re here for the weekend. I’ve been fortunate enough to do … I think we did one in New York, one in Washington, one in Austin, we’ve been to India several times, and here we are in L.A., and I’m really looking forward to it, should be a great weekend.
What’s your favorite thing about getting to do an event like this?
My favorite thing is seeing the dedication of all the U.S. soccer fans for the Premier League. I mean, obviously I’m aware of it in England and around Europe and other parts of the world, but to get here and just sample the atmosphere of all the fans here, I think it’s amazing.
This is a really fun weekend in the Premier League, what is the thing that you’re most excited about with the league this weekend?
Well, I think the standout game is Manchester United-Liverpool on Sunday. I don’t need to tell you or anyone how big those two particular football clubs are around the world. And I’m sure that it’ll generate great interest in our Fan Fest on Sunday. The way both teams are scoring goals, I’m hoping for a high scoring game. I have no particular allegiance to any of those teams. I just hope it’s a really exciting game for us all to watch.
I’d love to start picking your brain about the teams and first one would be United. They got Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, got Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, but something has just seemed a little bit off. What has stood out about them?
Well, I watched them closely last weekend when they played Leicester and were beaten by Leicester. Man United will always score goals because of the fantastic attacking talent that they have, whether that be Ronaldo, or [Marcus] Rashford, or [Mason] Greenwood, or Sancho, [Bruno] Fernandes and [Paul] Pogba. All these guys, they’re so good going forward.
But what I also noticed is that they’re so open, and that’s why they’re conceding so many goals. I felt they really struggled last weekend in terms of the press, they didn’t know when to press, how to press. And I think when you’ve got that attacking talent in the team, it’s finding that balance. So, that’s why I think they’ve struggled defensively. You can’t pin all the blame on the back four, whether that’s Harry Maguire in there, or [Victor] Lindelof, or Varane when he’s played. The press must come from the midfield and the forwards, and I’ve just felt they’ve really struggled with that this season.
And then Liverpool, they’ve just been scintillating. To me, they look like the team that pushed City to the final day then ran away with the league again. How have they been so effectively, to this point, able to put last season behind them and have success this year?
One of the big things, obviously, is [Virgil] van Dijk being back. When you have a player of his caliber missing for the year that he did, then you’re gonna miss him, because he’s one of the world’s best, and he proved that when Liverpool went all the way. So, to have him back is a big plus, and then the way that the forward players are playing. I think it also helps that Mo Salah, if I’m correct in saying, didn’t play any football in the summer. So, he’s coming back and he’s probably playing the best football of his career, and for me, is probably the best in world football as we sit here.
And then I want to ask about the other two teams viewed as the title contenders. First one is Chelsea, they’re top of the table. Some injury concerns, but what do you think they need to do to be able to stay on top for the remainder of the season?
They’ll need to keep [Romelu] Lukaku fit. I know they had one or two injury concerns with him and [Timo] Werner, I think they both came off in midweek, which will be a concern in the long run. I don’t think it should be a big concern this weekend for them.
But he’s a game-changer for them. I know he hasn’t scored for five or six games, Lukaku, but in terms of what he gives them with a threat in front of goal. They didn’t quite have that last season despite them winning the Champions League — Werner missed numerous chances last year. So, they keep Lukaku fit or get him fit and he doesn’t miss too many games, then it won’t be too long before he’s back amongst the goals. And as I said, he will be the game-changer for them.
I think defensively, they’ll be strong, they know how to defend as a team. They’ve got midfield who can pretty much do everything and make it tough for the opposition. They just needed to find someone to put the ball in the back of the net, and they’ve taken great confidence from what they achieved last season. I actually picked them to win the title this season. I’ve not seen, at the minute, anything to change my mind.
Well then I have to ask about the champions. With Manchester City, it’s going to be tougher sledding for them compared to last year. What have you liked about them, and where have you been concerned about their potential ability to retain their title?
Well, they obviously wanted to bring in a center forward, they wanted to bring in Harry Kane, and that never happened. They wanted to bring in Ronaldo, obviously that never happened. So, clearly, Pep [Guardiola] felt he was short in that department, and I think the longer the season goes on … I mean, it’s very difficult to predict because they’ve got so many good players who can be creative, who can score goals, who will open teams up for fun. We’ve all seen that. But there has been a few occasions where they’ve just missed that killer instinct, or that who can be that presence in and around the six yard box, because I’ve always said it, really, an average player in Man City’s team should get at least 20 goals a season. But a world class center forward in their team, I think, would get 40 to 45 goals.
Is there one team outside of that perceived top group that you’ve really enjoyed watching the most, and why?
Well, I’d love to say Newcastle [laughs]. I would say Leicester because of how long they’ve been up there now, how long they’ve been with the big boys. I know they’ve had injury problems this season, but they were back to somewhere near their best last weekend against Man United. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their football, they had Jonny Evans back, who was a big player in that team, and the way they’re not scared of the bigger teams, bigger clubs. They just go after them, and they’ve got so many talented players in that squad. So, I’d have to say Leicester.
I figured with how great of a goalscorer you were, you’d be a perfect person to ask about Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. The narrative is they’ve both had a poor run a form relative to their expectations. Do you think that’s a hangover from Euros and their summers being so hectic, or do you think something’s going on with them?
I think something’s going on with Raheem. I think that has, sort of, rolled on from last season, if you’d like. He had a brilliant summer for England, as did Harry Kane. I have no doubt about both players’ abilities and that they’ll both come back. I mean, Harry came back last weekend against Newcastle, and if you look over his career, traditionally, he’s a slow starter for most, if not every, season in the Premier League. So, he got his first against Newcastle last weekend, don’t be surprised that, because of the life of a goalscorer, you go a few games without scoring, then you get one, then you get another three or four after that. So, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he went on a bit of a scoring spree now.
But with Raheem, I don’t know, I guess it looks to me as if something’s gone on. But they’ve got so much talent, particularly on that left-hand side, where he wants to play, or I think is his best position. Whether that’s Phil Forden in there, whether that’s Jack Grealish in there, Bernardo Silva, or Raheem, I mean, that is some serious talent, and you can’t play them all. If I remember rightly, Bernardo Silva — there was talk about him in the summer leaving, or at the end of last season — he’s probably been Man City’s best player this year. So, if you get your head down, which I’m sure Raheem will do, then I don’t think it’ll be too long before we’re talking his form and his goals again.
You said Newcastle fans are excited after feeling like they haven’t had a voice in their club for 14 years. Do you anticipate that fans are going to be willing to be patient with the new ownership group, knowing that if it takes a few years, there could be a light at the end of the tunnel here?
Absolutely, they will be patient, because they know there’s a project going on. It just can’t happen instantly, as much as we’d all like it to, because we, as a football club, Newcastle have flatlined and had no ambition and no hope for the last 14 years. So, the owners have come in and they’ve had more communication in the last 10 days with the fans than we’ve had in the in the previous 14 years. So, I’m absolutely certain the fans will be patient. And it’s going to take time, and whoever the next manager is, that may not be the guy that takes us to the success that the fans want in three, or five, or 10 years’ time. So, there’s a project going on, and we all understand that, and we all have to be, and will be patient, for that.
Yeah, I think people forget that it took City three years to win a trophy and four to win the league. So, I’m glad that you think there’s going to be that willingness for that fans to be able to sit back and say, “Alright, our club is going in the right direction.”
Well, at least we’re going in the right direction, at least we’ve got some hope now, at least they’ve got a little bit of excitement, and a little bit of ambition. And that’s why they will be patient and understand that.