We've all seen it,
England captain Alan Shearer's customary celebration after he scores.
Arm raised, he wheels away from the goal--and always in a
direction that takes him away from the player who has made the scoring
opportunity for him. This, of course, ensures that the
television camera and the crowd in the stands stay focused on him and him
alone. Eventually, after the celebration subsides, he might give a
nod to the playmaker, but by then the moment of glory has passed.
Against Luxembourg in
September, Kieron Dyer made a run down the right, got clipped by a
defender but still managed to send in a low centring pass for a Shearer
goal before falling to the pitch injured. Since Dyer was a 20-year-old
making his England debut and Shearer's team-mate at Newcastle United, one would
have expected his captain's first thought would be to come over to congratulate
him on his effort if not to see whether he was alright. But, no, while Dyer lay writhing on the
ground to the right of the goal, his captain and team-mate wheeled away to the
left in celebration, literally turning his back to Dyer.
It was left to elder
statesman Stuart Pearce to sprint some 70 yards from his left back position to aid and comfort Dyer. Pearce,
himself a former England captain, knows what a captain's role is. Shearer
Shearer has never provided the
leadership a captain should. It doesn't make things easier that he has as
much charisma as a wet dish rag. One can imagine an effective captain who
has little charisma, a solid, dependable, determined and conscientious
sort whose bearing and behaviour command instant respect. But Shearer is often sullen when things don't go his
way and appears temperamentally incapable of rallying his team-mates, much less inspiring them,
when they perform poorly, as they often have since World Cup 1998.
As a forward, Shearer is, of course, in the poorest possible position to provide direction to his
team-mates on the pitch, and, at least from appearances, he never does. On several occasions
during England's European Championship 2000 qualifying campaign, a calming and
cautioning word from the captain was clearly in order because a player was
performing in a manner eventually bound to draw at least a yellow card and
possibly a red card. In fact, several England players have acted like mad
dogs loose on the pitch over the past 15 months, and in each instance it was obvious to spectators that
a card was was inevitable if they continued playing that way. Yet no
on-the-pitch leadership has been forthcoming from captain Shearer in the face of
these continuing discipline problems.
Installed as captain when
Glenn Hoddle became manager in 1996, Shearer was a poor choice to begin with,
and his performance as captain--or, rather, lack of it--has proven that choice
to be a huge mistake. Worse yet, as long as Shearer stays captain, manager Kevin
Keegan will remain reluctant to leave him out of the team or to take him off in
favour of a substitute even though his play has not merited a place on the team
and has certainly warranted his substitution.
This is one
mistake that is not cast in iron; it can be corrected. For the good of the
team, Keegan must come to grips with the problem, put aside the personal
relationship he developed with Shearer while managing Newcastle, and replace him
as captain. England cannot afford Keegan's indulgence in sentimental
loyalties not justified on merit.