You can’t choose a classic Premier League game without thinking of Kevin Keegan’s ‘entertainers’ from the 1990s.
Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer proved no different as he picked three classic Premier League games for Match of Their Day.
The former England captain remains the Premier League’s all-time leading scorer with 260 goals, winning the top-flight title with Blackburn in 1995 and going on to join the Magpies for a then world record £15m fee.
But could things have turned out differently?
“I sat down with Kevin Keegan and Sir Alex Ferguson on the same day in a house in Cheshire,” Shearer told Gary Lineker. “I saw Keegan in the morning and talks went really, really well.
“Then Kevin left and the Manchester United contingent came in, which was Sir Alex. His first question was ‘am I seeing you first or second?’ I told him ‘second’ and his words were ‘well I have no chance then’.
“He wanted to see me first and was disappointed. The talks went really well, were positive and I was impressed with what he said.
“I had to make a decision and at one point I was going to Manchester United, I was 90% certain. Then I got a call from Keegan, who wanted to see me again, and I thought ‘I am going to go back to Newcastle’. It was a club I always supported. Do I have any regrets? No, I would do the same again.
“Once I made the decision, I flew out of Manchester airport to go on pre-season tour in the far east. On the way to the airport, I rang Sir Alex, no answer.
“I didn’t want to leave him a message so I rang him again, but the third time I had to leave a message because he wasn’t answering. I left a message and, no surprise, I never got a call back.”
Here are Shearer’s three classic matches…
Newcastle 5-0 Man Utd
20 October 1996
Keegan’s side had been beaten to the title by United in the previous season but they gained revenge in stunning fashion by thrashing their rivals at St James’ Park.
Shearer: “A couple of months earlier United absolutely battered us in the Charity Shield 4-0 and it was a game we knew we had to win and we did it rather convincingly.
“I remember everything, it was that special a day and all the Newcastle fans remember it very, very well. We had to beat them and we had to beat them well because of what they did to us in the summer.
“Some of the goals that were scored, David Ginola’s in the top corner, Les Ferdinand’s header, but the best was the last. Philippe Albert’s fifth goal, when you do something special like that it is really important, but when you do it against a top class keeper it means even more.”
Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn
14 May 1995
Under Kenny Dalglish, Blackburn went into the final day of the 1994-95 season knowing a win would guarantee the title. Despite leading through Shearer’s strike, Rovers lost the game but still went on to lift the trophy at Anfield after United drew 1-1 at West Ham. There were surreal scenes as both home and away fans celebrated when the news of the result came through from Upton Park.
Shearer: “It was very nerve-wracking for everyone concerned with Blackburn. We had to win the game and we had to win the title. We didn’t win it but luckily it turned out alright for us.
“It was a huge relief because United were gunning for us and pressing us all the way. Once we got over the line, we had to thank West Ham and in particular the goalkeeper Ludo Miklosko, because he put in some outstanding saves. The party went long into the night.
“The only odd bit was the atmosphere at Anfield. The Liverpool fans didn’t want United to win the title, they wanted Blackburn to win, for the obvious reasons of Kenny Dalglish was Blackburn’s manager and everything he means to Liverpool. They wanted us to win it, that was strange. You could sense even the players wanted us to win it.
“We lost the game but straight away we realised the title was ours. For a few seconds once that Jamie Redknapp free-kick went in, we thought the title was gone, then seconds later the crowd were going mad, Kenny and Ray Harford were hugging each other and owner Jack Walker was going mad in the directors’ box and we realised the title was ours.
“One of the best days of my career. Making the decision to go to Blackburn was a big decision. I knew that was the project when we first sat down. That was their dream. We deserved it, Jack deserved it and Kenny and Ray deserved it.”
Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle
3 April 1996
The best Premier League game of all time? The patch-filled Anfield turf, the gung-ho football, an unforgettable moment with Keegan slumped behind the advertising board after Stan Collymore’s injury-time winner.
Shearer: “One of most iconic games in the Premier League. Liverpool v Newcastle produced some fantastic games over the years. It was a few months before I joined Newcastle but it was non-stop entertainment. It was an incredible game.
“I wasn’t at Newcastle then but still followed their progress. It was a game they had to get something out of. They had a 12-point lead in February but going into the game they trailed United by three points but still had two games in hand.
“It was an attacking line-up and some of the players and entertainment on show was fantastic. To have it taken away so late in the game, Kevin Keegan looked in agony.
“Kevin was never going to change his style of play. He wanted to go out and entertain the Newcastle public. He would always look to outscore the opposition. In some games you just have to sit tight and be organised but that is not Kevin and probably in the end that is what cost Newcastle.
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“It was a shock when he left because no-one expected it. It came out of the blue. It was a surprise to the whole football club. I was slightly disappointed for him to leave so soon.”