Walcott comment my only regret in memorable career
Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30
Twenty-three years after walking away from Liverpool for the last time after captaining the club to the 1990 league championship, I could never have envisaged a more fitting way to end my career with the BBC and as a columnist than with a World Cup final at the Maracana.
When I made my decision to retire two years ago, I was happy with it then and I have absolutely no regrets now.
I am 59 years of age, still young enough and fit enough to continue as a football pundit, but the time is right and I will not be looking back, other than to reminisce on the great memories of working with fantastic people, both during my playing career and throughout my second career in the media.
There was a postscript to my final appearance on the BBC following Germany's World Cup final victory over Argentina on Sunday evening.
Myself, my wife Janet and the BBC team ended up in a bar on the beach, some 30 yards from the hotel. Rio Ferdinand, one of my fellow BBC pundits during the World Cup, tweeted about my 'send-off in the Shack' (a 'shack' pretty much summed it up) and a great time was had by all.
But Rio, and Twitter, are two of the factors which prove to me that the time is right to move on after more than two decades.
Rio and I have both played the game at the back at the top level for the biggest clubs and we see and say many of the same things, but Rio brings a freshness to it and ensures that what he says sounds different to what I say, even if we are saying the same thing.
I have had my time and now others like Rio will come along and do the same, joining Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer in the 'Match of the Day' studio and taking it onwards and upwards.
The viewing public have not gotten rid of me forever because I will dip in and out of television in the future, but I will not be under contract again to become a permanent pundit on another show.
There is an appeal to covering certain Liverpool games, perhaps in the Champions League, but I am now happy to take a step back and see what the future brings for the first time since I started out at Partick Thistle more than 40 years ago.
This will also be my final newspaper column, 15 years after the first, and I have always been grateful for the positive reaction I have had from readers.
Much has changed in the 20 years that I have spent in the media, however.
As mentioned earlier, Twitter has changed everything, to the point whereby you not only have to make sure that what you say is right, but also that you say nothing wrong.
There has never been a hiding place in the media, but nowadays, you can find yourself being judged within 10 seconds of publication or broadcast.
It is a different world, but throughout my time with this column and 'Match of the Day', there is probably only one thing that I regret saying – and it is not that you cannot win anything with kids!
Four years ago, I said that Theo Walcott did not have a 'football brain,' without realising that my comments would be misinterpreted to such an extent.
The meaning of my observation was not as brutal as it may have come across, but nonetheless, I was critical of Walcott's ability and I am pleased to say that Theo has proved me completely wrong.
He is a proper player and I have to admit that my comments about him were the only time that I have ever been happy to be wrong.
Theo is an intelligent boy, very bright, with genuine ability and he has given the best possible response to my remarks by pretty much showing two fingers to what I said.
I have met him since I said it and there has never been a problem between the pair of us. England may have performed better at this World Cup in Brazil had Walcott been fit and able to play a part, with his cruciate ligament injury ultimately costing him his place.
But it has been a memorable World Cup and, despite missing out on my dream send-off of Brazil contesting the final, I cannot complain at the outcome.
Germany have been thoroughly deserving champions, but the abiding memory for me will be a negative one because of the way Brazil capitulated in the semi-final.
I grew up with memories of the 1970 Brazilian team which won the World Cup in Mexico, watching Pele score a stunning header in the final against the Italians and then Carlos Alberto's incredible fourth goal in the same game.
For more than 40 years, Brazil have been my benchmark, but to see them humiliated against Germany in Belo Horizonte left me distraught.
It was historic, but not the kind of history that you ever imagined witnessing. We all knew that Brazil went into the tournament lacking the blend of talent required to win it, but nobody ever expected that.
It has been a tournament in which the superstars such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar only performed in fits and starts.
Even the Germans, the best team in the competition, struggled to impress in some games against the likes of Ghana, Algeria and the United States. The overall quality of games and goals has made this World Cup memorable, however, and I have been delighted to be a part of it.
I always prefer to look forward, though, and I know I will not miss it. I could not be happier with the way things have turned out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)