Alan Shearer’s sensational hat-trick debut for Southampton did not stop Saints ordering him back to wash the kit
IT was the match which launched his legendary career.
But Alan Shearer recalls how he was quickly brought back to earth after his debut hat-trick heroics.
Alan Shearer was just 17 when he beat veteran Arsenal keeper John Burridge on his way to a hat-trick in 1988
Back in 1988, a 17-year-old Shearer scored three goals on his first senior start for Southampton in a 4-2 win over Arsenal at The Dell.
It made him the youngest scorer of a treble in England’s top flight — a record which still stands today.
Yet as much as he fondly remembers that game 30 years ago, Shearer will never forget the way boss Chris Nicholl kept his feet firmly on the ground.
The former Saints starlet, now 48, told SunSport: “Chris came up to me straight after the game and said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow — you are back in to clean all the kit and the boots!’.
Despite a display showing maturity beyond his years, Alan Shearer still had work to do on what became a famous goal celebration
Alan Shearer spent the first four years of his career with Southampton before hitting even greater heights with Blackburn and Newcastle
“That was his way of bringing me back down to earth.
“I still went out for a few drinks that night with friends in Southampton.
“I wasn’t actually old enough to drink but I still managed to have a sneaky one or two!
“But I only went to a couple of bars because I had to be up early the next morning to go back to The Dell and clean all the c**p up!” There was, as Shearer says, “no time to get big time”.
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And nor was there any time for the teenager to get nervous ahead of the match. That is because Shearer, who had only made two sub appearances up to that point, discovered he was making his first Southampton start just three hours before kick-off.
He explained: “I got to the team hotel and the manager said, ‘Danny Wallace has failed a fitness test, so you are starting’. I just thought, ‘Wow’.
“There wasn’t time for my parents or anyone to get down and watch.
“It was also the first time I’d ever had fillet steak as I chose it for my pre-match meal. I saw all the big hitters were having it and I remember asking for it just because they did!”
Southampton manager Chris Nicholl made sure Alan Shearer got no special treatment after he came off the pitch with a hat-trick on his full debutNews Group Newspapers Ltd
Despite his big lunch, it took Shearer only five minutes to tuck away a header for the first of his 283 career league goals.
And he celebrated by running off with one arm in the air — a sight we would become rather accustomed to over the course of the next 18 years.
Arsenal then equalised but Shearer got his second with another header after 33 minutes.
And he put the hosts 3-1 up when he completed his hat-trick four minutes after the break, finishing the rebound of his own volley which had hit the crossbar.
Shearer said: “I just remember being absolutely knackered. I was sort of running on adrenalin after getting the first goal and then the second. When I got the third one I was just on cloud nine.
Alan Shearer played for Southampton in the top flight from 1988 to 1992 before switching to big-spending Blackburn, where he won his only Prem title in 1995Getty – Contributor
“My mam and dad have still got the video cassette of the match and I gave them the matchball, which they have got in their house.
“I remember getting all the newspapers and I’ve still got the cuttings.
“I was up early the next morning reading every single report before I went in to clean all the boots and the kit!”
At that time, Shearer was earning only £35-a-week as a second-year apprentice at Southampton, after being scouted while playing for Wallsend Boys Club in Newcastle.
But just five days after his hat-trick, he signed his first professional contract.
Newcastle-born Alan Shearer is pictured here in 1986 – when he joined Southampton as a junior before launching his senior career there two years laterGetty – Contributor
Although he did not score in the remaining two games of that season, or in all his ten league appearances the following campaign.
Shearer said: “I was no longer the kid who scored goals in the youth team, I was the kid who scored a hat-trick on his full debut in the first team.
“Everyone knew who I was and it sort of made it difficult for me because everyone thought I was going to come in and do that every week.”
Alan Shearer has given an insight into the type of career launch that seems a million miles away from modern-day playersGetty – Contributor
Needless to say, it did not take much longer for Shearer’s career to pick up a pace.
He made his England debut while still at Southampton in 1992.
Then he moved to Blackburn, where he won the 1994-95 Premier League title and was named the league’s player of the year.
Next, he joined his boyhood club Newcastle, where he enjoyed such adulation on his way to becoming their all-time top scorer.
The Saints, though, will always hold a special place in Shearer’s heart.
Legend Alan Shearer says Saints will always have a special place in his heartHulton Archive – Getty
He admitted: “I owe them because they launched my career. They gave me the start.
“One of the reasons why I went to Southampton was because I thought I would have a better chance of playing first-team football there than anywhere else.
“Their history of bringing kids through the system and producing players is staggering.
“And I was one of a long list of players that have played for Southampton as a kid and gone on to be successful.”
Shearer is understandably concerned about his former club’s current plight, as they prepare to host Arsenal tomorrow in the fixture which first made him a household name.
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The Saints sacked manager Mark Hughes at the start of the month and replaced him with Austrian Ralph Hasenhuettl, who lost his first game in charge at Cardiff last week to leave his side second bottom.
Shearer admitted: “It seems that selling their best players year after year has finally come back to bite them.
“But I hope the new manager keeps them up because I’m very fond of Southampton. I’ve still got family and friends down there.
“I hope both Southampton and Newcastle quickly get out of trouble.”
Arsenal have actually only won once in their last seven Premier League visits to St Mary’s.
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But Shearer knows the Gunners are a different proposition this season under new boss Unai Emery, who is enjoying a 22-match unbeaten run.
He added: “I have been massively impressed with Emery. He is doing a magnificent job.
“He has got them enjoying their football and playing some really good stuff.
“We now expect Arsenal to go to St Mary’s and get a result because that’s how well they have been doing and that’s the run that they are on.
“Anything that Southampton can get out of the game will be a bonus.”