The skipper is back on board, driving the North East’s summer sporting calendar forward as ambassador of the World Transplant Games 2019. Elysia Fryer checks in with Alan Shearer to talk the Toon, titles and a top-class summer of sport…
He’s a superstar in the sporting world and he’s quite the legend when it comes to his hometown in Newcastle.
His voice is a weekly fixture in my household – instantly recognisable with a soft Geordie twang. But it’s not just his punditry power that sets him above the rest; his goals have created a lifetime of memories for Magpies and his northern charm shines through in everything he does.
He is a humble North East native and we’re honoured to sit down and chat with our number 9.
School’s out for summer, Match of the Day is taking a well-earned, end-of-season break and Alan Shearer is swapping studio days for some sun-soaked family time.
But it’s not all ‘switch-off-time’ for this sporting legend. We check in for a chat before a morning on the greens at Close House, catching up ahead of the World Transplant Games 2019.
For Alan, the sporting world is as much about community and opportunity as it is about skill and success. A Geordie centre forward, netting and holding the record for his number of goals in the Premier League, it’s safe to say his journey has passed through all of the above. His skills led to opportunities within his local community, which then led to Premier League and international success.
So, when the opportunity to get involved in the World Transplant Games 2019 came about, for Graham Wylie – Chairman and long-term chum – Alan was the perfect fit.
“I was an ambassador for the British Transplant Games in 2015 when they came to NewcastleGateshead,” says Alan.
“So when Graham asked me if I’d do the same for the World Transplant Games this year, it was an easy decision to say yes.”
It’s a cause close to his heart and something many of us will experience in some way, shape or form in our lifetime. And, of course, it’s a spectacular sporting event held here in the North East – why wouldn’t he be the face of it?
“I’m privileged to be an ambassador for the World Transplant Games 2019. Sport should be for everyone.
“For me, it’s about lending support to an inspiring campaign that encourages a healthier lifestyle for transplant recipients and spreading the word about the importance of signing up to the organ donor register.
“I’ve been involved in the fundraising golf days in the run up to the event, plus a promotional video aimed at encouraging businesses and individuals to get involved in any way they can.
“Oh and this interview of course!”
I’m a big football fan – albeit a ‘smoggie’ – but it seems the beautiful game isn’t the only thing we have in common with the goal-machine. His love of the North East is up there with that of team Luxe.
“For me, hosting up here in the North East is another example of how fantastic we are in this region at securing and hosting major sporting events,” he says.
“The Games will bring over 2,500 participants from 63 countries and I know we’ll give them a really warm, North East welcome.
“They might not understand us and our delightful accents, and there will be lots of fun with translation, but sport always overcomes that!
“Visitors will also be contributing to the regional economy in terms of accommodation, restaurants and attractions. Sunderland gets in on the action too with cycling held at Hetton Lyons Country Park and swimming at the Aquatic Centre.
“The media attention is also great for the region and given we have participants from around the UK and the world, it’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase the very best the region has to offer.”
Newcastle is very much flying the flag when it comes to the North East’s major sporting events. From the European Rugby Finals held at St James’ Park back in May, to the World Transplant Games this summer and the British Masters coming to Close House in 2020, we’re certainly taking the sporting world by storm.
“We love our sport here and this passion is easily transferred when it comes to delivering great events.
“From the stewards and volunteers, to the superb venues that we are fortunate to have in the region. And not to forget the people who work tirelessly to get these events here. Graham Wylie and his bid team got down to the last three and then beat off Germany and the USA!
“And then, if that’s not enough, Graham announces that he’s also been successful in securing the British Masters in 2020, so we’ll have a great year at Close House next year too!
“It’s a very exciting time when it comes to sport in the North East.”
All major sporting events add to the economy and our cultural diaries, but the World Transplant Games especially, is a great opportunity to raise awareness, spread the word and get people involved in organ donation.
“The World Transplant Games is about a group of people who’ve been given a second chance,” says Alan.
“An incredibly altruistic gift made possible by donor families. In 2015 it was fantastic to see all ages and abilities enjoying every single second – and this year will be no different.
“With only around 35% of the UK population on the organ donor register, it means that there are more than 6,500 people who need a transplant to live and three people die every day waiting for the call.
“When you look at the facts, it’s a decision about what you would want for yourself and your loved ones and if you’re prepared to receive, then you should seriously consider giving. It takes five minutes to sign up and makes a massive difference to those woeful numbers.”
Alan tells me he will be following Team GB – of course. And with over 350 athletes now representing our country in the Games, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the medal chart. Can we bring home the gold?
The skipper may not have had a place in Team GB in his time, but leading a team and stepping up for international duty is certainly in his DNA.
He holds the title of the Premier League’s record goalscorer, he earned 63 caps for England and scored 30 goals at international level.
“I left home at 15 to start my professional career at Southampton, so football is all I know,” explains Alan.
But a return to Newcastle was always going to be a part of his career path.
“I always wanted to play for Newcastle at some stage in my career. So to do it and wear the number 9 shirt was a dream of mine.”
After retiring as a professional footballer at 35, Alan was keen to kick-start a second career in the game.
He took to the dugout for the remaining eight games of the 2009 relegation season, before Chris Hughton stepped up to take charge of the quest to get Newcastle back to the promised land for the 2009/2010 season.
But it was his familiar face, that soft Geordie twang, and his football know-how that led him to becoming a familiar face for football’s Saturday night social, BBC’s Match of the Day.
“It was always going to be punditry or coaching. I love what I’m doing now and have worked hard at it over the years,” says Alan.
“I’m very lucky to have played the game professionally and to still be working in it is just wonderful,” he adds.
A weekend trip to Salford’s Media City is now a key fixture for Alan Shearer, but when he’s not on our TV screens, he’s taking to the stands at St James’ Park or hitting the greens for a game of golf at Close House. I don’t get to the Newcastle games as much as I’d like due to MOTD on Saturdays, but if I’m not at work and NUFC are at home, then I’ll go with my son and a couple of friends.
“Otherwise, you’ll find me on the golf course at Close House. We are extremely lucky to have such facilities in our area.”
So Premier League fixtures and World Transplant Games aside, what’s on the summer social calendar for our number 9?
“Just a bit of golf and sunshine,” he says as he picks up his clubs for a final round of golf before jetting off for summer with the family.
This interview with Alan Shearer was taken from issue 59, July/Aug 2019.