Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer made “rookie mistakes” during his ill-fated attempt to help the Magpies avoid relegation. That’s the view of Joey Barton, who believes the Toon’s record goalscorer would make different decisions if he had his time in the St James’ Park dugout again. Shearer was United’s fourth boss of the season, and Barton believes the Magpies would have avoided relegation if Kinnear had been able to continue in his post. The former Manchester City midfielder reckons the Toon hierarchy banked on the “Shearer effect” being enough to lift the club clear of danger.
Joey Barton was one of a number of first-team players to enjoy a good relationship with Shearer prior to his appointment, with several members of the dressing room previously playing alongside the striker. But despite this good-will, the current Fleetwood Town boss believes a heavy-handed approach saw Shearer make a number of “rookie mistakes” in his first managerial job.
Joey Barton said “I just remember the first meeting with the players and I remember thinking they have got this wrong. They said we’re not fit enough. Too many lads are going out in the city centre, there’s not enough discipline etc. We’ll be training two sessions a day, and I remember thinking we’ve got eight games to go. We don’t need this authoritarian figure, I just felt he needed to be himself. He’s quite happy-go-lucky and quite a funny guy. I thought if he came in and was himself, he’d be fine. But he wasn’t, and he wants to be the manager straight away and wants to do all these things and put all these protocols in place. They were probably good, but they would have been good in the pre-season, not in the back-end of a season. If people aren’t fit in March and April, you can’t get them fit. He said I know everybody in the city centre, I know all the security and CCTV operators. He made it clear to the lads almost like the Gestapo that you can’t do anything without him knowing. At that point, we were fighting relegation. The group didn’t need that, it didn’t need the heavy-hand approach. But that’s what they’ve come in with, and the next few weeks he tried to put more running into sessions and as a coach now looking back, it was a f****** rookie mistake.”
Joey Barton said: “I always remember being in the treatment room one day, and there was an afternoon session for the strikers, and Dowie was doing the shooting session. I always remember Michael Owen coming in saying I’ve won the Ballon d’Or, and I’ve got Iain Dowie coming in and telling me how to finish when I get in one-on-one. Iain was a solid pro, but more of a battering ram and I’m not sure he’s the best person to tell a ballon d’Or winner – a player who was an incredible player – how he should be composed and how he should finish. That was just a predicament of what was going on. It was a strange time, and a lot of the strikers felt the same. I still think you can never forget things like that but we’ve got over it as much as we possibly can. I think if he had his time again, he would do things differently, and if he did those things differently there’s a good chance Newcastle would not have been relegated. At that point, he was trying to stop a train heading in the wrong direction with the wrong momentum. I can easily see now as someone who has made the same mistakes on a smaller scale at Fleetwood, I can see if you made them in the back-end of the season how costly they would be. The things he was trying to implement would have to be implement in pre-season when you get a chance to bed in your way of doing things. If he had the power of hindsight and got another opportunity to do it, I’m pretty sure he would have made decisions which would lead to better outcomes.”
Shearer was appointed in April 2009 with just eight matches remaining, and tasked with keeping United in the Premier League after Joe Kinnear was forced to step back and undergo heart surgery. However, the Magpies legend could only guide the club to five points from a possible 24 as the club suffered relegation on the final day at Aston Villa.