IT’S a pairing which half of the football lovers in East Lancashire would love to have seen and the other half would have dreaded.
Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage together on the same pitch in the famous blue and white halves of Blackburn Rovers.
Sadly the combination of England striker Shearer and combative Welsh midfielder Savage never happened, the players being from slightly different generations.
Shearer was the record signing whose goals helped Blackburn Rovers take on the big boys and win, landing the coveted Premiership title in 1995. Savage was the non stop midfielder opposing fans loved to hate. His long blonde locks and ‘in your face’ playing style was guaranteed to provoke a reaction from the most docile of crowds. He signed for the Ewood Park outfit in 2005 from Birmingham and spent three seasons there before leaving for Derby. He retired from playing two years ago.
While many ex-pros appear to struggle to cope with life off the pitch the duo have become mainstays of the BBC’s footballl coverage.
“When you retire from football, there’s a very big void to fill and you’re never going to get the buzz back from playing,” says the 43-year-old Geordie, Shearer.
“Running out onto a pitch and getting that adrenaline rush for 90 minutes, it’s virtually impossible to replace.”
For the last six seasons he has become a Match of the Day regular following a number of guest appearances after his retirrement in 2006.
The changing rooms-style joking between the presenters and pundits helped him settle into his new life on the box.
“There’s aways banter between us on Match Of The Day, and in a way that’s what helped me make the transition to TV,” he said.
“I’ve gone from one dressing room to another one, albeit a slightly smaller one with Al and Gaz (Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker).”
For such a high-profile figure – Shearer scored 30 goals for England in a career which saw him play for Southampton and his boyhood heroes Newcastle United – he has shied away from the limelight. While some football stars are happy to be plastered all over glossy magazines and lap up attention alongside famous faces from the movie and pop worlds, Shearer has bucked the trend.
For 22 years he’s been happily married to Lainya, with whom he has three children, daughters Chloe and Hollie and son Will.
In interviews, his personal life is usually off limits, though he did talk about his two girls recently after taking them to the opening of The Alan Shearer Foundation, the charity he launched to raise money to support disabled children and adults in the North East.
He said he wanted Chloe and Hollie to “see for themselves how difficult other people’s lives can be - and they have certainly taken notice”.
MOTD will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and Shearer’s chuffed to be part of it.
“This year we’ve got new pundits like Danny Murphy and Gianluca Vialli, to keep things fresh. I’m so pleased the football season has begun!”
While Shearer has done his utmost to keep himself to himself, former Wales international and fellow MOTD pundit Robbie Savage has broadened his range away from the field, most famously taking part in the ninth series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2011.
The Wrexham-born star finished a respectable sixth with partner Ola Jordan, and even broke his nose after attempting an ambitious knee-slide and crashing into a camera during his energetic jive routine. H hasn’t kept up the grooving, but he’s willing to share some advice for the next round of contestants – that it will be difficult!
“It’s tough,” says Savage, 38, a father of two. “I’ve seen some of the names that have been mentioned in the press and it looks like it’s going to be a good line-up, but I won’t be able to watch it because of my radio shows.”
The radio show in question is 5 Live’s 606 football phone-in, on which the presenter and callers often have what could be described as a frank exchange of views.
Savage’s preparation for the show is very thorough, so when there is a difference of opinion, he is ready to make his case – forcefully.
“Some people disagree with you but I shoot them down,” he says. “I know when someone is lying,” he adds with a smile.
“It’s such a great show. I don’t say things for the sake of it. I might be wrong sometimes, but I’m not afraid of saying what I think.”
Despite his confidence on radio, he confesses he’s experienced some stage fright about joining Match Of The Day.
“TV is nerve-wracking. I was speaking to Alan Hansen the other day and he was telling me that he still gets nervous – and he’s the master of it.
“Everything you say is criticised. It’s such an iconic show – you have to be on the top of your game.”