Alan Hansen to quit 'Match of the Day'
Alan Hansen will end his 22-year association with 'Match of the Day' next summer, revealing his intention to retire as the BBC's leading pundit following the 2014 World Cup.
Having been a central figure in the TV station's football coverage since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, the former Liverpool captain will not pursue a new contract to remain on the programme when his deal expires next July.
After rejecting alternative offers from Sky, ITV and even the chance to become manager of Manchester City during his two decades on 'Match of the Day,' Hansen insists he will be leaving a programme that remains at the heart of football in this country.
But having shelved plans to quit three years ago, the 58-year-old has confirmed that this season will be his last.
"I'm retiring from Match of the Day at the end of the season," Hansen (above) said. "I will have been there for 22 years and will be 59, so it's the right time for me.
"The guys at the BBC know me and I said: 'Look, this is categorical. I'm leaving and nothing will make me change my mind.'
"I am contracted to do the World Cup and I will do that as it will be a good way to go out, but I have had a great run.
"I've been in football for 41 years and I'm going out right at the top, just as I did at Liverpool."
With regular viewing figures in excess of four million, and sometimes over five million, 'Match of the Day' remains the most watched football programme in the country. It has borne the brunt of criticism in recent years, however, with the show's format dismissed as stale and tired in comparison to the coverage offered by Sky Sports, particularly since the introduction of former Manchester United defender Gary Neville as its star pundit.
But while Hansen acknowledges the quality and depth of Sky's coverage, and the contribution of Neville and fellow pundits Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp, the Scot insists that 'Match of the Day,' and presenter Gary Lineker, are unfairly criticised.
"The thing with the BBC is that there aren't a lot of people out there willing to defend it, but the viewing figures speak for themselves," he concluded. (© Daily telegraph, London)