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Let us know that feeling is mutu-Al.

MUCH has been made of Alan Shearer's dramatic emergence as manager of Newcastle United.

Too hasty? Doomed by the incompetence of those who serve him? Mercenary? Loyalist? Courageous? Many are the opinions and when the man in question is a living legend it is bound to be thus.

Fair enough. Let all have their say. It's a free world.

However, what concerns me as we approach the final climax of a horrendous season - two successive home matches - is that a misunderstanding could yet sour the special bond between fan and all-time record goalscorer.

The problem is simply this - while Shearer sees the current struggle as not about him in terms of focus but the team of players and the club, supporters are beginning to stir in agitation at the lack of public acknowledgement from their leader on match days.

Kevin Keegan was terrific at working a crowd. He milked the adulation and thrived on it. His public antics on the touchline encouraged outpourings and galvanised the crowd.

He unashamedly cashed in on the Keegan Factor to the good of not only himself but the team.

He transformed personal adulation into team support and consequently created a frenzied atmosphere beneficial to all.

Shearer, on the other hand, has so played down his dug-out appearances at St James's Park he's created a false impression with many that he's indifferent to those who surround him.

A lone figure standing on the edge of United's technical area with hands thrust deep in his pockets, he has given the impression of coldness and detachment when those who know him can vouch that nothing could be further from the truth.

United belatedly tried everything to drum up vocal support against Portsmouth in midweek from an opera singer bawling Blaydon Races, to a team announcer in a black and white shirt, and hundreds of giveaway black and white flags.

However, once the match kicked off the atmosphere was down to the players - and Alan. One loud chant of "Shear-er, Shear-er" during a firsthalf of sweat and pain died on the lips of those performing when the focus of their adulation failed to acknowledge their support.

What has to be remembered is that United don't possess either the individual players or the collective ability to encourage the Toon Army to believe that victory is at hand.

Instead they must roar on the shirt. However, on the touchline they now have a genuine hero.

Big Al, scorer of more than 200 goals. A focal point of adulation.

A man they have respected for many a year.

A clenched fist raised fleetingly when those who care chant his name would encourage the crowd to become the 12th man Shearer openly touts in prematch Press conferences. I know a lack of it bothers a considerable number of Mags because I have been told so many times since Wednesday night.

Such an innocuous gesture, isn't it, so simple and small, yet so telling in many eyes.

Geordies love warmth and passion. Anyone who displays it in their colours is taken to heart.

A public case has been made for Shearer to stay on regardless of where United play next season, Premier or Championship. It is said he owes it to club and fans, that a lopsided and ineffectual squad isn't down to him and he's the only one capable of headlining a longterm plan to restore Newcastle to where they ought to be.

Fine if that is what all want, but if it is to happen then the bond twixt Geordie manager and crowd has to be bell metal strong. Not tarnished in any slight way by the team misfortunes currently plaguing us all or by any misunderstanding.

It is well known in football that those adroit at throwing rose petals can just as easily stock up on acid.

After tomorrow's journey to Liverpool the black and white season will be shaped by two home games against Middlesbrough and Fulham. So much is already lost and this is the very last of last stands.

Let Shearer, team and fans be as one. United we stand, divided we surely fall..
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Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 2, 2009
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