Alan Shearer has been speaking to The Athletic ahead of our trip to the San Siro in our opening game of the Champions League against AC Milan.
He believes it’s a ‘great draw’ and one Newcastle must embrace, feeling we have every chance of qualifying. He accepts PSG will be tough, but believes Milan ‘aren’t a great team’, revealing what Sir Bobby would tell his squad prior to our group games 20 years ago – ‘just one win, lads.’
Shearer feels our 1-0 win over Brentford was all about the result, not the performance and gives us a ‘chance to rest’ and look forward to Milan. He insists there was ‘never any panic’ as it was always going to be a tough start, backing us to have another ‘very good season.’
The 53-year-old also explains how midweek games in Europe will be a new challenge for players and staff, insisting the physical and mental strain goes beyond just 90 minutes of football, as the journey and build-up impacts usual routines and can take it’s toll.
Hopefully that’s something we can manage, especially with Sheffield United (Premier League) and Man City (Carabao Cup) to come over the next week, but he’s urged the players to ‘soak it up’ and ‘enjoy the atmosphere’ after all their hard work to get to this point.
Here’s everything Shearer’s had to say, starting with his thoughts on the draw:
“Loads of people messaged me when the draw was made, saying stuff like, ‘Oh, that’s really tough’ or, ‘That could have been a bit easier’, but I was like, no, this is a great draw, trust me.
“I always go back to what happened with Blackburn Rovers when we won the Premier League in 1995. There was a bit of turmoil at the club that summer, with Kenny Dalglish stepping down as manager, but there was real excitement about playing in the Champions League.
“Then we drew Rosenborg, Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw and all I can really remember is the bit I wish I couldn’t, being frozen to the bone in sub-zero temperatures at the Luzhniki Stadium and David Batty and Graeme Le Saux scrapping with each other. How the hell did it come to this?
“So, no, Newcastle’s group is not a group of death. It’s a brilliant group, one that reminds us we’re alive and I don’t think it’s impossible to get out of it. Sure, PSG will be tough, but Milan aren’t a great team and they’ll all find it difficult at St James’. Like Bobby said, ‘Just one win, lads’ and then get a couple of draws or a win away from home and you never know. This is where players want to be, where good players believe they should be.”
Shearer on our start to the season and win over Brentford:
“There was never any panic and I still think Newcastle will have a very good season. We knew it was a very tough start. Liverpool affected their confidence and they didn’t play well at all at Brighton, but Brentford gives them a chance to reset. It was all about the result. It means they can go to Milan looking forward to what they earned last season because they did earn it.”
Shearer on the new challenges we’ll face playing in Europe:
“Playing in Europe is different for players and staff. The challenge is not just about the 90 minutes, it’s the physical and mental strain of what happens around it. You travel in comfort and you stay in a lovely hotel, but the journey takes it out of your legs and body. It’s fantastic and exciting, but it’s draining, too. After matches, you get home late or the following day. It disrupts routines and it’s brand new for a lot of Newcastle’s players.”
Shearer on his plans for tomorrow’s game:
“My son, Will, is going over with a couple of pals and I’ll be in the pub with my mates or watching quietly at home. Can’t wait, man. For what it’s worth, my advice to the players would be to soak it up, to enjoy the atmosphere, because they must realise how much it means to us. Because this is football and you never know what can happen. Although, I suspect this isn’t going to be our last time in the Champions League…”