Revealed! The story behind Alan Shearer’s infamous Tyne-Wear derby axe at Newcastle

MEMORY ... John Carver.
MEMORY ... John Carver.

JOHN Carver has revealed the story behind Ruud Gullit’s shock decision to drop Alan Shearer in a Tyne-Wear derby.

Newcastle United head coach Carver was on Gullit’s staff for the infamous home game against Sunderland in August 1999.

He just seemed set on the fact that that was what he was going to do, and that was the team he was going to put on the pitch. I talked about it being a motivation for the opposition

John Carver

It was his first as a first-team coach.

Carver had a bad feeling well before a ball was even kicked.

And it was to be Gullit’s last as manager.

Gullit made the shock call to drop Shearer AND Duncan Ferguson – and play young striker Paul Robinson up front.

The ploy, not surprisingly, backfired, and Newcastle lost the derby.

Within days, Gullit, seen to have an agenda against Shearer, had resigned.

Carver, taking full charge of his first derby tomorrow at the Stadium of Light, vividly recalls the events which led up to the match, which was played amid a torrential downpour at St James’s Park.

“We were at the old training ground and Durham Cricket Club, and I was in the room with Steve Clarke and Ruud,” said Carver.

“All of a sudden, he started talking about what the team was going to be against Sunderland.

“I said ‘sorry Ruud, what did you say there?’. He said he was going to leave out Alan and Duncan, and this was going to be the team.

“I said ‘do you know how important this game is?’.

“He used to call everyone ‘lovely boy’, and his exact words were ‘lovely boy, I have played in some massive derbies. I’ve played in them in Holland, London derbies, and I played in the Milan derby too’.

“I said ‘yeah, but do you actually know what this means?’.

“He said ‘I’ve already told you – I’ve played in massive derbies’.

“I went ‘yeah, but you haven’t played in one like this Ruud’. I turned to Steve Clarke and said ‘he hasn’t been involved in a game like this, I’m telling you now’.

“And then we just walked out of the room. I then continued the conversation with Steve Clarke, because he half understood where I was coming from because of the relationship we had.

“But I don’t think Ruud did. He just seemed set on the fact that was what he was going to do, and that was the team he was going to put on the pitch.

“I talked about it being a motivation for the opposition.

“Reidy (Peter Reid) was the manager at the time, so I said ‘this will be a motivation for Peter when he sees that Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson are not on the teamsheet’.

“But he had no concerns whatsoever.

“I actually thought ‘if we don’t win it, he’s gone’. This was before it all happened, and I said to Steve ‘is he writing his resignation now before the game?’.

“Steve didn’t comment, because he was quite tight to Ruud. Then we played the game.”

United took an first-half lead through Kieron Dyer, but Niall Quinn levelled in the 64th minute, and Kevin Phillips scored a winner for Sunderland eight minutes later.

Carver said: “We were 1-0 up, then the equaliser, then 2-1, and the heavens opened.

“I walked in afterwards and there’s Ruud in the room writing on his pad.

“I said to him ‘what are you doing?’ He said ‘you know what I’m doing lovely boy’.

“I just shut the door and walked out, and found out what had happened the next day.

“I was there, and it was a dreadful night all round. It was pouring down, the stand was open and everyone had macs on.”

Carver’s other painful derby memory at St James’s Park is of then-Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio’s goal celebration the season before last.

Di Canio slid along the touchline on his knees after Adam Johnson scored the second of his side’s three goals.

“It was an awful day, and other than Paolo Di Canio sliding on his knees, that was as bad as I can remember,” said Carver.

“It was my first derby, and with how it developed with the team we put on the pitch, it was hard to take.”

“I’d only just come into the first-team situation then. I was new to the senior side, so it was a little bit different when Paolo slid on his knees.

“I found that extremely hard to take, and that will stay in there.”