Alan Shearer was the archetypal British centre-forward, a true all-rounder – while he was good in the air, it didn’t always have to be with his head, his penalties were near-unstoppable, he didn’t lack for technique and he was able to create something when little appeared on.
In all of those clips above, Shearer is wearing 9, the traditional number of the centre-forward in England – so wedded to it was he that Les Ferdinand was forced to switch to 10 when Newcastle broke the world record to bring the Geordie native home in 1996.
Shearer won 63 England caps between 1992 and 2000, starting on 61 occasions. Leaving aside the game against France at Euro 92, when he had 20 as his squad number, he wore in 58 of his other 60 starts. In the other two games, including his debut in a friendly against France at Wembley in February 1992, he had 10 on his back.
Shearer played up front alongside David Hirst, who was winning the last of his three caps, but the Sheffield Wednesday man wasn’t wearing 9 either – he had 11 with Nigel Clough in 9, the number he wore for Nottingham Forest, as he played in the hole behind the strikers.
It’s not as completely crazy as it seems, to be fair. Shearer was seen as the successor to Gary Lineker as England’s main goalscorer and 10 had of course been Lineker’s number. England’s last international before the France game was their final Euro 92 qualifier against Poland, when Lineker had scored a late equaliser to secure their place in Sweden. On that occasion, he had been the lone striker in a 4-5-1, with David Rocastle wearing 9.
In the southern hemisphere tour England undertook in the summer of 1991, Hirst’s other start had come against Australia and he wore 11 on that occasion too, with Clough 9 and Lineker 10.
Wearing 10 didn’t dull Shearer’s goalscoring senses, as he got off the mark in the first half before sub Lineker made it 2-0 in the second period. Interestingly, despite the fact that it was a friendly, Lineker was the only player to get off the bench.
Shearer’s next outing in an England shirt would be a ‘B’ international against Czechoslovakia in March 1992, wearing 10 again with Alan Smith the number 9, but in April he wore 9 for the senior side alongside Lineker against the CIS.
After the European Championship, England’s first game was a friendly against Spain in September, with Shearer once again starting as number 10 with Clough 9.
The World Cup qualifiers would begin in October, a disappointing home draw with Norway setting the tone for a frustrating campaign. Shearer was given 9 once more while Ian Wright had number 10, which would remain peripatetic until Teddy Sheringham made his debut at the comparatively late age of 27 against Poland in 1993 – wearing 9, as it happened, with Shearer unavailable.
Shearer, though, would never wear another number in starting a game for England.