Newcastle legend Alan Shearer reacts to his new statue at St James's Park

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has revealed he always knew Alan Shearer would sign for Newcastle rather than Manchester United after striking a £15million bargain.

Freddy Shepherd and Alan Shearer
Freddy Shepherd and Alan Shearer

The Magpies smashed the world transfer record when they persuaded Shearer to head home from Blackburn during the summer of 1996, with Sir Alex Ferguson desperate to take him to Old Trafford instead.

But, speaking at the unveiling of a statue of the former Newcastle and England skipper, Shepherd insisted the club had got more than value for money in a decade's loyal service after thrashing out a deal with then Rovers owner Jack Walker.

He said: "Without a doubt. Jack Walker said to me, 'it's £20million to anybody else, but you can have him for £15million' because he didn't want him going to Manchester United.

"But there was no way Alan was going anyway to Manchester United, he was always going to come to Newcastle."

Former Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan, Shepherd's predecessor Sir John Hall, current managing director Lee Charnley and one-time team-mates Rob Lee and Steve Harper were among the guests as Shearer formally unveiled the statue, which is sited on Barrack Road outside St James's Park, in front of hundreds of fans.

He scored a record 206 goals for the club and his Premier League return of 260 remains the figure to beat 10 years after his retirement.

Shepherd's family business Shepherd Offshore paid for the Tom Maley sculpture, which depicts the striker in his familiar goal celebration pose.

Shearer said: "I'm very proud and very honoured to be standing here with a statue. I'm in great company with Jackie Milburn and Sir Bobby (Robson) only 20 yards away.

"Never ever did I think when I left home at 15 to go to Southampton to be a professional footballer that one day I would have a statue. I am a very, very lucky guy.

"I scored goals, I was half-decent at it – I would have done it if I didn't get paid. There have been many coaches and players and staff at all the football clubs I have been at that I have to thank, so it's as much for those guys as it is for me because I wouldn't be stood here today without those guys."

Shearer, of course, returned to St James's Park as manager for the final eight games of the 2008-09 season, but was unable to prevent the club from slipping out of the top flight.

He held talks with owner Mike Ashley about taking over on a permanent basis, but ultimately it was Chris Hughton who was handed the task of dragging the Magpies back into the Premier League, which he did at the first attempt.

Asked if he had any regrets, Shearer replied: "No, I have no regrets. I am very happy in what I do. It's great seeing them doing well at the top of the Championship and hopefully they can get back into the Premier League ASAP."

Newcastle head for QPR on tomorrow evening sitting in second place in the table, and Shearer is convinced they have a bright future under current manager Rafael Benitez.

He said: "If he can continue doing it his way, I'm sure that will be the case."

Benitez was unable to attend the ceremony as he put his players through their paces a few miles away at their Darsley Park training headquarters, but he said: "Alan was an incredible player, the perfect number nine, and he had a fantastic career representing this great club.

"He is also a great ambassador for Newcastle with the charity work he does to support the people of the city.

"The statue of him at St James's Park is a perfect tribute to a true club legend and I send Alan my very best wishes for a memorable day."