Match made in heaven as Lineker keeps banging them in
Gary Lineker once recounted, with obvious bemusement, how one of his sons had marvelled while watching a match on television at the idea of having a father like David Beckham. Footballers have a shelf life, seemed to be the message, even in their own homes.
A growing number manage to put off their sell-by date by moving into television punditry, but Lineker says he looked beyond that even while he was at the height of his playing career. Having cast a careful eye over the television landscape, the England international saw presenting as having the potential to offer a career that could continue to develop long after the memories of his goals had dimmed.
In July, 18 years after he hung up his boots and 13 after he started working for the corporation, he was reported to be the BBC’s best-paid employee with an annual salary estimated to be in the region of €2.5 million.
“Even back with England,” he recalled yesterday while in Dublin doing work for Walkers crisps, “Gazza and Waddle used to call me Junior Des (after the Match of the Day frontman, Lynam) because I used to spend a lot of time with the journos and the TV people . . . I knew what I wanted to do. I thought there was the chance for a player who had played at the top to do that, we’d seen Jimmy Hill and Bob Wilson obviously. But there weren’t many of them in football, whereas if you looked at tennis or cricket there were plenty of them.”
It wasn’t easy, with the 52- year-old admitting yesterday to having had serious doubts about whether he could succeed in television over the course of the first year or so. “I had a great football career but I know I was born with a gift to play football and to score goals. The television thing has come an awful lot harder.
“There were times when I felt I was never going to be able to do it but then you relax and over time you become yourself. Ultimately people decide whether they like you or hate you and you just need more to like you, but there’s always a lot who will hate you in this business.”
His overall popularity is beyond question and Lineker has, at different times, had stints fronting the BBC’s golf and Olympic programming. When Match of the Day is discussed in the media, there is constant debate about the quality or freshness of the panellists but his role as anchorman is simply taken for granted.