Speciali ’92: Alan Shearer talks chicken and beans, boots and goals by Aaron› 18 Nov 2011
As the Premier League’s highest ever goalscorer and one of England’s finest ever strikers, Alan Shearer knows plenty about hitting the back of the net. He also knows plenty about Umbro’s Speciali boots, with Shearer wearing them throughout his illustrious career. As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Speciali with the Speciali ’92 collection, we also took the opportunity to speak to Alan Shearer about his time on the pitch and the boots he wore…
Alan, to start I guess I have to apologise for mentioning that the Speciali boot is now 20 years old…
‘Thank you very much for reminding me! Ha!’
Going right back to the start, how did you end up wearing Umbro boots in the first place?
‘I actually wrote a letter off to Umbro and some other companies, asking for a pair of boots basically, or some sort of sponsorship, and Umbro were the ones that replied. I got a few pairs of boots, some tracksuits and a kit deal for a year, so that’s how it started. And it’s still going to this day. So it’s been going a long time, and it’s been pretty successful for both parties. Over this period of time, it’s been more than a contract to be honest.’
Do you remember the first pair of Speciali boots you received?
‘I’m not sure of the exact year, but I do remember getting them. What stands out for me is that they’re a really pure football boot. There’s no pink or orange on them, no unnecessary additions, and that’s what I like.
Would you say they fitted with your personality on the pitch?
‘I wanted a boot that worked, a boot that was comfortable and did the job, and the Speciali did that for me. God knows how many goals I scored in them, but I had some great times in the Specialis. Once I’d worn the Specialis, I just wanted to wear them all the time. I wore them until they dropped off to be honest.
Did you ever have any superstitions around your boots?
‘If I’d gone on a barren spell, which luckily wasn’t very often for me, I would change into a new pair of boots. And the same way, if I found a pair that I was scoring in, I kept them on for as long as I could. I wasn’t really classed as a goalscorer when I was at Southampton, I think my record was something like 1 in every 3 and a half games, which is not great for a striker. But once I’d moved to Blackburn in 1992, a barren spell for me was about 4 or 5 games, I think.’
What about the old “chicken and beans before every game” story?
‘I didn’t always have that, I had it a few times and made the mistake of mentioning it once, and now everyone likes to remind me of that! I did enjoy it a few times though.’
I think it was 260 goals you scored in the Premier League, correct me if I’m wrong…
…But do you think anyone will ever beat your record?
‘I think the only guy that might have a chance in the next 5 or 10 years might be Rooney. Age is on his side, and he’s become an all-round goalscorer.’
Out of those 260 goals, which ones really stand out?
‘I think my first one at Blackburn will always be important, after moving for a British record fee, and then my first at Newcastle after moving for a world record fee. Also, breaking Jackie Milburn’s record at Newcastle in front of the Gallowgate End was pretty special. I’ve had some good times in the boots.’
You had a pretty good record for scoring on your debut as well, didn’t you?
‘Yep, I scored on my England debut, on my Blackburn debut, scored on my Southampton debut and my Newcastle home debut. Things like that never played on my mind though, I never got nervous. I got excited before a game, butterflies in the stomach, but that was more wanting to get out and play the game.’
Did you always want to return to the north-east and play for Newcastle?
‘Yeah, I always wanted to come home at some stage, and to do for a world record fee was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I’m very pleased I did so as well. Beating that record in front of the home end, the record of such a legend and a folk hero at Newcastle, that’s probably the one that stands out the most. The reception I got that day was just incredible, and something that’ll live with me for the rest of my life.’
What about days when it didn’t go as well – who was the toughest defender to play against?
‘Tony Adams was a tough one, I always had a good battle with him and we always gave as much as we got, and I think that’s the way it should be to be honest.’
And the opposite of that, who was the best partner to play with up front?
‘With England it has to be Teddy Sheringham, I had a great rapport with him, he knew my game and I knew his, and we both scored goals. At club level, I had one season together with Les Ferdinand and we scored 49 goals between us so that was pretty special.’
You mention England there, what moments stand out for you from your time at international level?
‘One of the best times was Euro 96, especially the 4-1 against Holland, the atmosphere on that day was terrific, the best I ever experienced in an England shirt. Teddy scored two and I scored two, and it was just a great occasion.’
How did you feel going into that tournament?
‘We’d had a bit of criticism beforehand, me personally because I hadn’t scored for a while, and I’d put pressure on myself by saying “judge me in a tournament.” Thankfully Terry Venables stuck with me and I managed to finish top scorer in the tournament, and we probably should’ve gone on to win it.’
Hate to bring it up again, but that tournament was one of my earliest football memories…
‘You’re making me feel old telling me that!’
Sorry! Moving onto something else, someone else who had success in the Speciali is Michael Owen. How was it playing alongside him?
‘The first thing you’d notice about Michael was his pace, his goals, and his attitude towards scoring goals. He wasn’t afraid to miss, he got into goalscoring positions, and his record is terrific. Everyone’s got a different character, but I do think that Michael is similar to me in some ways. I think all great goalscorers have a similar mentality, they’re never going to be afraid to miss. It’s all about getting into the next position and taking another chance.’
What about a modern player who’s wearing Speciali boots, Andy Carroll? Would you have liked to have played alongside him?
‘I’d have loved to have played with Andy. His physical style, his prowess in the air, bringing people into the game, it all would have been great to play alongside. He’s got the ability, the pace and the power. We’d have had a few battles as well – I don’t think defenders will enjoy playing against Andy, so I think we’d do alright!’
We’d have to agree! Thanks to Alan for taking the time to speak to us about his time on the pitch. The Speciali ’92 collection is on sale now, head to Umbro.com to see more.
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