Gary Lineker: the goalscorer, presenter, p*ss-boiler the nation needs (but the BBC apparently does not)

John Nicholson
Gary Lineker next to Timmy Mallet during the Queen's jubilee parade.

Gary Lineker is proving as ruthless at taking down sh*tehawk Tories as he was around the six-yard box. The BBC presenter won’t ‘stick to football’ and nor will Johnny Nic.

Here’s ‘What’s So Great About…’ England’s one-time record goalscorer. What a pathetic decision from the BBC.


Who’s this then?
Gary Winston Lineker is a 5’10” former striker from Leicester who played for five clubs, Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona, Spurs and Nagoya Grampus making a total of 567 appearances, scoring 281 goals.

He started his career at his hometown club in the second tier, making seven appearances in the 1978-79 season, and was part of the team that secured promotion the following season. However, in his first three campaigns he couldn’t consistently nail down a place in the side, and scored just seven times in 37 games. That changed in the 1981-82 season when he scored 19 in 47 appearances. The Foxes had been relegated but in 1982-83 finished third and got promoted again thanks to 26 goals from our boy Winston. He ended up scoring 103 goals in 216 games across seven seasons for the club.

Everton then spent £800,000 on him and in return he scored 38 times in 52 games. At which point he did something that English players very rarely did; he went abroad, which, notoriously, is like a foreign country. Barcelona signed him for £2.8million along with Mark Hughes. He learned the language and was a huge success, scoring two on his debut and hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Real Madrid. After three seasons in La Liga and 52 goals in 137 appearances, Spurs paid just £1.1million to bring him to White Hart Lane. In 1991-92 his last season there, he netted 35 times in 50 games but even so Spurs were 15th in the league. He tallied 80 goals in 138 games across three campaigns and then famously ended his career playing in Japan in the J-League for 24 games, scoring eight, before retiring in 1994.

Bobby Robson picked him for England for the first time in 1984 and in total he earned 80 caps and scored 49 goals. He was the best English striker of his era and by some measure, won the FIFA World Cup Golden Boot in 1986 and was Ballon d’Or runner up the same year. He was Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year 1985–86, 1991–92 and PFA Players’ Player of the Year 1985–86.

On retiring he went straight into a media career, initially as a pundit on 5Live and Match Of The Day, finally taking over as presenter when Des Lynam left to go to ITV in 1999 and he’s been there ever since, adding in a stint at BTSport for the Champions League for a couple of seasons. While no-one would pretend he’s some sort of saint, certainly not the man himself, nevertheless, he has become something of a national treasure, at least to everyone who isn’t an absolute bastard, or as our former boss Danny Kelly once coined him, ‘leader of the opposition’.

Why the love?
Because he never got booked let alone sent off during his playing career, he was always seen as a bit of a goody-two-shoes, the sort of well-mannered young man you could take home to meet your parents without fearing he’d try to grope your mother, nor strip to the waist and fight yer da on the cobbles, or arm wrestle your grandad.

The fact he was the primo goalscorer of his generation, even if almost all of them were scored from six yards or less, endeared him to every club he played for. His performance in the 1986 World Cup was a high point, his hat-trick against Poland legendary. In the 1990 World Cup, his worried look and the ‘have a word’ to Bobby Robson as Gazza had his infamous meltdown, somehow summed him up; empathetic, kind and thoughtful even at moments of great pressure.

Although he was rather clunky and a little milky when he began his presenting career, he definitely grew into it, improved and eventually mastered the art to such an extent that his relaxed, self-deprecating, slightly cheeky style has redefined the role of football presenter. He is a very trusted live broadcaster and even if things go wrong, he’s got the chops to deal with it and not freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. Likely enough, he’ll just make a joke out of it, which is always the best way. Although now 62, he doesn’t feel old-mannish in any way whatsoever, does he? He has a nice, thoughtful, slightly older brother way about him.

Of course, there are those who don’t love Gary. Far from it. He infuriates these people who want to see him sacked for the crime of telling the truth. And these people hate the truth. In recent years he’s taken to tweeting about various issues, most recently migrants and the government’s inhumane policies. Despite the right-wing performative outage at his words, they are hardly the words of a revolutionary but rather the words of someone who is just being moderate, sensible and thoughtful. Words that only someone already on the lunatic fringe could take against.

And if you look at the sort of people who keep calling for him to be sacked, they are all people whose political or media career has relied on not telling the truth; not telling the truth about Scottish Independence, about Brexit, about Boris Johnson, about Liz Truss, about the cost of living, about immigration, about pretty much everything. It isn’t a coincidence. They’re trying to shut him up and are furious that they can’t bully him.

The irony is, he is very thoughtful and judicious in what he says. He weighs up his words carefully, unlike his critics. His politics, such as they are, are sensible and mainstream. He isn’t some Marxist firebrand. That too is what his opponents hate. He is hard to dismiss as an extremist, unless you’ve lost all reason. All sensible people see is on one side a mild-mannered person being humane, on the other, spittle-flecked monsters with hate and idiocy suffused into their bloodstream.

The irony is this all comes at a time when the chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp is a Conservative Party donor who introduced the financially and morally incontinent Boris Johnson to a man who wanted to act as guarantor for an £800,000 loan to The Liar (though quite what motivated this long lost ‘cousin’ who volunteered this guarantee was never clear) and Sharp was then appointed chair of the BBC by the very same Liar.

Corruption? Nepotism? It is hard not to use a lot of words that end in -ism about these appalling people. Apparently, such actions are fine with the BBC, but opposing extreme governmental rhetoric – let’s not pretend it’s an actual policy because it’s illegal and unworkable – is beyond the pale. That isn’t a sustainable position. Sack him and it looks like the BBC is completely craven to right-wing Tories,. Don’t sack him and it looks like you’re allowing presenters to have publicly held opinions, something which is outlawed in some contracts, though not Lineker’s, ironically enough.

It is a ridiculously compromised position the BBC have got themselves into and it has happened because the BBC has allowed itself to be bullied by a malicious, mendacious, corrupt and, above all, stupid government that wants agreement with them to be seen as moderate and opposition to be branded as some sort of extreme liberal socialist position, which it absolutely isn’t. But, as though wedded to some sort of Tory-enforced ‘aren’t we useless’ self-harm, the BBC have been leading their news bulletins on the story, despite other more important things than Gary’s tweets should surely take precedence.

So we can see why a man with eight million followers, not simply offering an opinion but just speaking the truth, can be so threatening to the worst people and their media. Not just because it might make some people think more deeply about what this rotten political shower is saying or trying to do, but more because he acts as a unity figure for the many millions who are disgusted to their moral core by pretty much everything the government does and is and are determined to make them pay the price at the ballot box. These people do not fully comprehend how absolutely loathed they are.


Four great moments
Gary gets some serious on…

Gary gets his pants off…

‘Have a word…’

And, yeah, the boy could play a bit…


Future days?
He will keep on keeping on, like the concerned citizen that he is. He handles it all with bright eyes and good humour, largely, I imagine, because he knows he’s in the right. He’ll keep introducing Southampton last on a Saturday night. He hasn’t come this far to be cowed by shrivelled politicians of no worth or integrity.  The idea that Robert Jenrick – do search for ‘Westferry housing development’ to more fully know the man – should say he is out of touch with the public mood, is ridiculous to the point of surrealism.

Of course Gary doesn’t fear suspension. Why should he? He was almost certainly aware of where he stood in relation to his contract and the BBC. Tim Davie, the Director-General had to say he was having a word with him, to look like he was doing something to appease his Tory pals. But of course, that was never going to come to anything, as both parties surely knew.

Gary doesn’t need the job, is wealthy and doesn’t need to work. Since he hasn’t broken his contract rules, if they sacked him, he could likely sue them for breach of contract, and take them to the cleaners. The BBC, the Conservative Party and all the nasty satellite groups that orbit it are impotent in stopping him making his occasional tweets about their appalling policies. They have no choice but to keep drinking their own tears over this.

And to be frank, if the BBC wants to try and push him around, all he has to do is point to Richard Sharp. If the chairman of the BBC can be overtly political, why can’t he? It isn’t as though he’s even advocating for another political party, or giving money to a party, or helping the Prime Minister get a huge borrowing facility, all of which come with a side order of ‘dodgy’.

If, post-BBC, he wants to keep working, there will be no shortage of job offers because he is the best known and most loved of sports presenters. Those who criticise him only do so because he opposes them. If he was agreeing with them, it would be fine. Like I say, this government is stuffed with the exceptionally stupid who don’t seem to realise how transparent they are to everyone who doesn’t share their warped view of the world.

They are keen to use this as a battle in a culture war to distract people from their huge catalogue of failings and because they think the Trump playbook is worth following, so morally bankrupt are they. But all they’re really doing is shining an even brighter light on their own shitness.

There’s only going to be one winner in this fight and it’s Gary Lineker. When you have an evil heart, the truth burns like a cross on a vampire’s skin. Did you see Penny Mordant hopelessly and stupidly trying to use him as an analogy to attack the Labour party? Clueless. That’s not an opinion, it’s just counting. This isn’t a Tory v Labour thing, it’s a right v wrong thing. Politicians who know nothing about football, trying to use it to make their point always look very lame, regardless of party. The idea that it is somehow ‘lefty’ to be compassionate says so much about those who use the term.

One thing we can all be sure of, when Gary introduces the next Match Of The Day he will make a light but cheeky joke about all of this, which in turn will heat the blood of the awful people who seem to get off on being a shit.

The day the BBC decides it’s wrong to have someone with a conscience working for their organisation, is the day it dies. We should never forget that there are no alternative facts, there is just the truth. Lineker speaks the truth.