Shearer joins Milburn in Geordie folklore

January 7, 2006

Alan Shearer has scored his 200th goal for Newcastle to go alongside the legendary Jackie Milburn and take his place in Geordie folklore.

Empics / JohnWaltonAlan Shearer: Record-breaker.

For more than 50 years the name of John Edward Thompson Milburn has been celebrated on Tyneside as a symbol of football's place in the hearts of its inhabitants.

After his death from cancer in October 1988, Newcastle came to a standstill as the goalscoring hero was laid to rest, and a legend was born.

For those who still remember `Wor Jackie' and his influence - the reverence in which he is held has been passed down to later generations - there could be little prospect of ever seeing his like again, at least until another home-grown son was persuaded to take up the mantle.

That Shearer has managed to match Milburn's 200 Newcastle goals is a huge achievement; that he has done it in the current Newcastle side is even more remarkable.

Ashington-born Milburn, uncle of the World Cup-winning Charlton brothers, worked in the coal mines before embarking on a career in football in 1943, scoring 38 goals in 95 games during the war years. He made his official debut in an FA Cup tie against Barnsley in January 1946.

He scored twice that day and never looked back, plundering 177 goals for the club in 353 league appearances and a further 23 in 44 FA Cup matches.

Milburn was a central figure in the Newcastle side which lifted the FA Cup three times during the 1950s, scoring in both the 1951 and 1955 finals.

He found the back of the net in every round of the 1951 campaign and his bullet first-minute header in the 1955 final - the last time the Magpies lifted the famous trophy - remains one of the quickest goals in the showpiece fixture.

Pacy - he was a former sprinter - and powerful, Milburn could finish with devastating effect with both feet, a quality shared by Shearer.

Like the latest holder of the number nine shirt, Milburn had a habit of making an impact when his team needed it most.

His exploits at St James' Park earned him 13 England caps - the Newcastle faithful could never quite believe it was not more - and before he then left Gallowgate for Northern Ireland in 1957. He scored more than 100 goals for Linfield, for whom he played in the European Cup, in just two seasons.

However, while the legend of Milburn was founded from what he did on the pitch, his place in history was assured by his conduct off it.

One of football's gentleman, he became a highly-respected journalist, covering Newcastle's fortunes for the News of the World for more than 20 years, although he perhaps never quite realised in just how much esteem he was held on Tyneside. An indication was a crowd of 45,404 turning up when he was belatedly granted a testimonial in 1967.

Milburn was made a Freeman of the City - he has since been followed by Shearer and former Magpies' boss Sir Bobby Robson - and a statue serves as a permanent reminder of his contribution.

He has been the hardest of acts to follow, but the likes of Wyn Davies, Malcolm Macdonald and Peter Beardsley came close over the years.

But no player has rivalled his reputation like Shearer, and that is a fitting tribute to his own efforts to bring the glory days back to St James'.