Gary Lineker tells JOE about Match of the Day and not wanting to "lick backsides" in football politics... 5 years ago

Gary Lineker tells JOE about Match of the Day and not wanting to "lick backsides" in football politics...

In the third instalment of JOE's exclusive four-part interview with Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter talks about the programme's evolution and tells us why he'd never go into football politics...

Have you ever thought of trading presenting for a career in management?

The management thing for me was always a non-starter. It’s a dreadful job.

How about a role in football politics? What if somebody came up to you and said: “Would you lead our bid for the World Cup?”

I’m not really a political animal. I can’t stand going round and being really nice to people I don’t like very much, and that’s what you’ve got to do in that job. And it isn’t me. That fake thing just makes me cringe.

I’d much rather speak my mind and have some sort of effect from the peripheries. Because as soon as you get involved in that role, it’s all licking people’s backsides.

You can’t then say what you think and that’s not me.

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People often wondered why Alan Hansen didn’t go into management…

Well it’s a different walk of life. It’s the one criticism [some people] will always level: “Well you haven’t done management.” Yeah, but he’s played football. And anyone’s entitled to their opinion anyway.

Some people will do it really well and it’s about the tactical side of it. I don’t see how being a manager has any help in being a pundit.

There was a great documentary about Alan Hansen leaving Match of the Day. Do you think he was the precursor to everything that has happened since in football punditry?

Unquestionably. He was the first person really who looked at things and didn’t just tell you what you can see for yourself. Instead he’d pick out some tactical nuance and technical detail and explain it in a way that made you go: “Oh yeah!”

I mean there were so many times I sat next to him and he put a piece together, especially defensively, and explained what he [the defender] should do and where he should be and why, and you start to think: “Oh God yeah!” And that for me is the key to good punditry.

It’s trying to show the people at home, who are quite an educated audience, something that they can’t obviously see for themselves – and that’s not an easy job.

You can’t do it every week, because you’re delegated a game to watch and some games you can search all day for something that’s interesting but it’s not there. Other days there are lots of things and you can’t fit them all in.


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There seems to be a greater emphasis on stats on Match of the Day these days...

I think the game has naturally evolved that way anyway, so we have evolved with it. It’s the same with [including] social media on there, and stuff like that.

But you generally try and go with the times. I think football has become more statistics obsessed, and there is so much more information out there - you can find out so many things. Some people will find interesting and some people won’t.

The show is old, but you’ve got to keep it evolving and make it modern. Our graphics are ahead of the game and they’ve won awards, so we don’t want to be seen as the old lady who’s just trundling on.

But at the same time, the programme is what it is – it’s highlights of the day’s games with a bit of chat.

It’s not a show where we’ve got aeons to just delve into every analytical aspect – that’s not our bag. It’s always about trying to find a balance between the amount of footage and the amount of chat.

Over the years I think we’ve pretty much got it bang on. They’ll always be people who want more analysis and less action, and vice-versa, but it’s about getting it somewhere in the middle to placate the masses.


What do you think of Twitter’s obsession with the Match of the Day running order?

It’s hilarious. Everyone’s covered. To be honest, it mostly picks itself. There’s obvious criteria – the big game, which can be superseded if there’s an unbelievably great game that day.

It’s like any sporting event – you generally focus on the leaders. You don’t watch a horse race and focus on the horses at the back. Or swimming and watch the people in fifth. You focus on the top, if it’s a fairly dull game, then you go to the next most interesting thing - which is obviously the bottom of the table or the Champions League chase.

If you’re a neutral, like the guys are, it picks itself. But it is quite amusing and I don’t mind putting it out there and putting my tin hat on!

Do you think as an organisation the BBC get a bit of rough deal in the media?

I think so, but they always will because of the license fee. People don’t look at the value they get for the license fee, which is worth a cup of coffee a week. And what you get for that is quite extraordinary.


My personal thing - and this absolutely not a BBC view whatsoever - it’s just my personal view, is that you should make it voluntary. And make it a little bit more expensive. And I think people would take it, because if you compare it to what you have to pay for Sky it’s nothing.

And what you get for it is quite extraordinary - the amount of different programming, and radio, and World Service and all sorts of different things that you get for your £2.50 or whatever it is a week.

But it’s the fact that you have to, and that’s why the BBC gets the stick it gets. Yes it’s a bureaucracy, it’s got its weaknesses, but it’s also got loads of strengths.

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You do work for networks in other countries, how does their coverage differ?

It differs everywhere. Football is loved throughout the world, and there’s a passion for the game that is sometimes directed in a different manner.

But there’s a huge passion for football the world over. Especially for the Premier League – it’s remarkable how popular the Premier League is all over the world. It’s the blood and thunder, the excitement.

I love watching Spanish football but it’s ultimately Barcelona and Real Madrid. With the exception of Atletico last year, they generally walk away with it and they generally win most of the games quite easily.

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But you can never bank on that here [in the Premier League]. It’s marketed very well. And it’s not always the same two clubs that dominate, which is quite important. Ever since I grew up it’s been different. It’s often only two clubs but it’s cyclical.

So it used to be Liverpool and Leeds, then Liverpool and Arsenal, then it was Manchester United and Liverpool, now it’s Chelsea and…Chelsea! But that won’t last I’m sure. You’ve got a range of teams that are ready to challenge just behind them. There are more possible winners from the start, which helps. And all the grounds look good on the TV.

You look at Spain and even Italy. Half the grounds are half-empty in Italy; in Spain, a lot of the grounds look like some sort of non-league ground over here, even in their top league.

I mean, it’s got some lovely grounds, but they’ve got some really average ones as well. Whereas everyone one of our stadiums always look the part. The grass is always green, the pitches are always good. The product looks good.

You can read part one of our exclusive chat with Gary, on young players and social media, here...

And part two, on racial prejudice in football and the Rooney Rule, is right here...