Thursday 27 November 2014

Theres always people who will hate you, says Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker talks about life in public eye, the struggles of modern strikers and failing to find a way past Bonner

Published 30/11/2012 | 05:00

TEMPTATION reared its ugly head. Gary Lineker, the face of Walkers crisps, was in Dublin yesterday.

On the way to meeting him I thought about buying a packet of a well-known rival brand and offering one to Gary, just to see the expression on his face.

The sports editor even suggested I could put them on expenses, generous soul that he is, but I bottled it.

Best not to risk being turfed out the window of the penthouse suite of Dublin's Morgan Hotel without getting a chance to chat to a top sports personality and he about to celebrate his 52nd birthday today.

Yes, Gary Winston (named after Mr Churchill) Lineker from Leicester has notched up another year on the planet and he's going as strong as ever in his second career.

A generation has grown up knowing Lineker as the presenter of 'Match of the Day,' but to slightly older soccer fans, particularly anyone whose blood pressure soared into the red zone any time he was on the ball in that epic Ireland v England encounter in Stuttgart's Neckarstadion on June 12, 1988, Lineker is remembered as one of the finest strikers of his generation.

Indeed, Mick McCarthy summed up the experience of trying to shackle the lethal finisher, who was then a Barcelona player.

Big Mick had managed to persuade the England No 9 to swap shirts after that famous 1-0 victory and declared the next morning that Lineker's shirt "didn't stop moving for hours after the match."

ruefully

The quip highlighted the level of threat posed by the Englishman to any defence, and he laughs ruefully when told of McCarthy's remark.

Recalling the painful memories, Lineker sighed: "It was just one of those days when it (the ball ) wouldn't go in.

"Packie Bonner was unbelievable. He did some amazing stuff and they defended brilliantly. Absolute credit to them, but it was a tough one for us.

"We were a good side at that stage. We were quite fancied (for Euro '88) and as we showed in 1990 (when England reached the World Cup semi-finals) we had the makings of a really strong side."

There is a mischievous side to Lineker and he's clearly one of the boys when it comes to football banter with his 'MOTD' mates Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer, but he was a great pro as a player and also in his TV work.

Lineker wore the colours of Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona, Spurs and Japan's Grampus Eight in a first-team career that lasted from 1978 to 1994. He scored 243 goals in 466 league appearances and won 80 caps for England, scoring 48 times for the national team.

Medals and honours? He has a few all right, among them the Golden Boot for top scorer in the '86 World Cup, Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners' Cup medals with Barca and the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991.

On retirement, Lineker, who always had an interest in journalism and fancied media work, graduated from football punditry on radio and TV, to presenting 'Football Focus' and in 1999, getting the big job on 'MOTD'.

He also became a central figure in BBC's golf coverage but ended that by his own decision three years ago, preferring to concentrate on football.

'MOTD' attracts an average of four million viewers each Saturday and around two million for the Sunday morning repeat.

During our conversation, Lineker gave his views on a variety of subjects, among them the challenges faced by strikers Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, Manchester City's enormous spending, and being liked or disliked on TV.

LINEKER ON: FERNANDO TORRES

"Fifty million quid is a lot of money for Torres and he's lost his way. He looks like he's lost a yard and he's certainly lost confidence, there's no question about that.

"It's been a long time now that he's been struggling and it's hard to really see him returning to being the player that he was in his time at Liverpool, when he had a couple of unbelievably brilliant years.

"It's hard to know quite what's gone wrong there. He had injuries and then when he came back, he's not quite been the same.

"It's a shame. You can see the inner turmoil. You can see it in his face whenever he plays, he's not enjoying himself, he's not getting in there anymore. It's like he's lost his self-belief, so whether he can get around that now after such a long time, I'm not so sure."

LINEKER ON:

ANDY CARROLL

"Andy Carroll's different. He's a young player. It's not his fault they paid a ridiculous amount of money for him when he went to Liverpool (£35m).

"He was just starting to show signs of improvement towards the end of last season, but he clearly didn't fit into Brendan Rodgers' plans. He's gone to West Ham United where he had a really good start, and then he got injured.

"He's a handful. He's that kind of player. It will be interesting to see how he does. He's still a young man. He needs to really focus on giving himself the best chance to succeed and living properly, getting himself properly fit. That will make all the difference to him."

LINEKER ON:

CITY AND UNITED

"Yes, (City) struggled in the Champions League. They're out of that, but they are the league champions, they are building. They've spent a fortune and they spent some more money in the summer, but I'm not sure they've strengthened their team.

"I'm not sure you'd look at one of those players (they've bought) and say: 'He is quite clearly better than the person who was in there before.'

"Whereas you look at Manchester United. They were only pipped by a last-second goal last season, and have added (Robin) Van Persie, who's made a massive difference already.

"He's a top-quality centre-forward and elsewhere you look at one or two other players and you can say United have moved on a little bit.

"That's not to say City are out of it. They're still unbeaten in the league this season.

"United have a slight edge at the moment, but you have to say it's already looking like a Mancunian two-horse race."

LINEKER ON:

MATCH OF THE DAY

"People still like it. The old highlights (package) works. People want to see their team, yes, but they also want to see all the games. Even the poorest game you can put together five minutes and make it look reasonably exciting and that's why I think it works."

LINEKER ON:

POPULARITY

"It was a question of surviving the first year or two and learning the business. And then you become familiar with the environment. You know what's expected. You deal with situations where things go wrong, which is always the true test and you find your way.

"And then, over a period of time you, become relaxed and you become who you are. And then people will decide whether they like you or not and that obviously is the key.

"As long as more people like you than hate you in television – and there's always plenty of people that will hate you whoever you are – then you're doing OK."

Irish Independent

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