Philippe Albert and Alan Shearer don’t fancy Group G rivals to win World Cup
PHILIPPE ALBERT has only just pushed open the door when he is greeted by a familiar face singing a familiar song.
“Philippe, Philippe Albert, everyone knows his name,” chants Alan Shearer, remembering his former team-mate’s terrace tune, which was sung to the theme music of The Adventures of Rupert Bear.
The towering figure of Albert chuckles before warmly embracing his old Newcastle pal.
And they immediately start swapping stories of their time together on Tyneside in the late 1990s.
Albert, 50, admitted: “I’ve never been at a club where all the players got on so well together. The atmosphere was unbelievable.
“We used to go out to bars and restaurants with 20 of us – it was part of the culture under Kevin Keegan.”
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Shearer, 47, added: “We had a lot of fun in those days. We had a laugh.
“We had plenty of nights out – not that we are going to tell you about them!”
Albert signed for Newcastle from Anderlecht in 1994 after starring for Belgium at the World Cup in America, where Toon boss Keegan was working as an ITV pundit.
The defender was part of The Entertainers team who lost the title to Manchester United in 1996 after blowing a 12-point lead.
That summer, Shearer joined his boyhood club from Blackburn for a then world-record transfer fee of £15million.
And Albert said: “I still remember the day he signed – thousands of fans at the ground.
“I had a lot of pleasure playing alongside him in that team. He was one of the best strikers in the world.
“You knew that if you gave him four or five good balls in the box, at least three of them would find the back of the net.
“He’s still a legend in Newcastle and he always will be. He deserves everything when you see what he did for the club.”
Their most memorable night together came in October 1996, when Newcastle thrashed Manchester United 5-0 – and a certain Belgian centre-half scored the fifth with THAT 25-yard chip.
Shearer smiled: “He used to try stupid things all the time in training so it was no surprise to me that he actually tried it in a game and it worked!”
Albert admitted: “People ask me sometimes, ‘If it was 0-0, what would you have done?’.
“But I would have done exactly the same because I had watched Peter Schmeichel a lot.
“He is one of the greatest keepers of all time and the way he reduced the angle was by coming off his line a bit.
“So when I got the ball I knew there was only one thing to do – to chip it.
“And it was perfect. Everything was perfect on the day.
“It’s one of my favourite games because that’s the game people always talk about in Newcastle – but under Kevin every week was a special game.
“We were called The Entertainers because even when we played away from home, we sometimes got applause after the game for how we played.
“If you ask me now what I would have preferred, I would say not winning silverware but giving pleasure to the fans like we did.”
Belgium and England have certainly given pleasure to their fans so far in Russia, having both scored eight goals in two games against Tunisia and Panama.
Thursday’s Group G decider will be their first World Cup meeting since a last-16 tie in 1990 when David Platt scored a stunning volley in extra-time.
Albert, who is in Russia working for Belgian TV, was an unused substitute that night.
And he said: “When you are beaten in the last minute of extra-time, it’s like the world has fallen apart.
“We were terribly disappointed that we had to come home. It has been 28 years but people in Belgium still talk about that game.”
England went on to reach the semi-finals that year but have never got as far since, while Belgium’s open last-four appearance was in 1986.
Both nations, though, are dreaming of rewriting history this time around.
But Shearer said: “You can only beat what is put in front of you but we must not get too carried away.
“I might be wrong, but I don’t think Belgium or England will win the World Cup.
“Belgium look red-hot going forward. They could cause any team problems with their attacking players and they have put a marker down here without a doubt.