I’ve long mainted that Newcastle striker Alan Shearer is one of the dullest public figures on Planet Earth, a conclusion that even the purveryors of McDonald’s poisonious hamburgers came to some years ago when they tried, unsuccessfully, to feature Shearer in a series of not-quite-self-depreciating-enough spots. The Observer’s Lynne Truss, however, goes a step or two further, describing the England international as a “waddling, sullen, dirty, immovable obstacle to beautiful football.” You go, girl.

Here are the regular questions I would ask, out loud, in exasperation, at England matches: How does he get away with it? Why is he walking? Why doesn’t anyone notice that he raised his arm to appeal for that penalty before he artfully tripped over the keeper? Why doesn’t he run? Why is he never rested? Why is he never substituted? Would you call that strolling or ambling? Why is he never sent off? Why is he never even booked? Who died and made him God? At a football writers’ dinner one year I was lucky enough to sit next to Ted Beckham, and what did I do? Instead of angling for anecdotes of the infant David, I moaned on and on and on about Alan Bloody Shearer.

I think it wasn’t Shearer himself that I hated most: it was the official blindness shown towards his limitations that exasperated me. His talismanic status made him exempt from question, and I couldn’t accept that. Nowadays (except in the north-east), it seems there is generally more criticism of a) his ‘manly’ style of football, b) his inexplicable untouchability where refs are concerned, and c) his ability to intimidate managers, so that if they leave him off the team sheet, they get instant delivery of a P45.