A Brief History of Gary Lineker
Articles Blog

A Brief History of Gary Lineker

November 4, 2019

For the younger generation of British football
fans, Gary Lineker is a broadcaster. As host of the BBC’s weekly flagship Saturday night
highlights show “Match of the Day”, and a number of other BBC sporting institutions,
Lineker’s television career has now been long and very successful. But before all that, he was a striker. And not just any striker, but one Sir Bobby
Charlton described as “among the greatest finishers football has ever seen.” By the
end of his career, Lineker was just one goal shy of Charlton’s all-time England goalscoring
record, which was eventually broken by Wayne Rooney. He played for Leicester City, then Everton
– who were one of the powerhouses of English football in the 1990s – before earning a
move to Barcelona, spending several fruitful seasons at Tottenham Hotspur and ending his
career at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan. It was a remarkable playing career. When Leicester
City won the league in 2016, Lineker honoured a bet to present Match of the Day in his underwear,
a bet he had felt comfortable making given how unlikely the feat was. His deep attachment
to the Foxes meant he enjoyed their achievement more than most. He was born and brought up in the town and
joined the club in 1977 after leaving school. A year later he was in the first team, as
Leicester sought promotion from the old Second Division. It took him a while to find his feet. He scored
just one goal in seven appearances in his first season and 3 from 20 in his second,
at the end of which Leicester were promoted. In his first season at the level above, Lineker
scored just 2 goals in nine league games, as the Foxes were quickly relegated. Then, things started to happen. He became
a regular in the side, and started scoring at a startling rate, combining a lethal instinct
close to goal with instinctive, anticipatory movement in the box. Seventeen in 39 league games in 1981-82 was
followed by a division-best 26 in 40 as Leicester again made it back to the top flight. This
time Lineker was ready for First Division defenders, scoring 22 goals – and, ultimately,
convincing Bobby Robson that he was ready for international football, winning his first
cap at the age of 23, against Scotland in 1984.
During 1984-85, his 24 goals saw him finish the season equal with Chelsea’s Kerry Dixon
as the league’s top scorer. With a World Cup looming the following summer, Champions Everton
came calling and Lineker made the move to Merseyside for £800,000. He would spend just one season with the Toffees,
who finished runners-up to Liverpool in both the league and the FA Cup, with Lineker scoring
38 goals in 52 appearances, enough to earn him both the Football Writers’ and PFA player
of the year awards. It would also earn him the attention of Barcelona. He tried to put the interest to one side,
concentrating on England and the 1986 World Cup, reasoning that if their interest was
serious Barcelona would still be keen after the tournament finished. That could have been a big gamble, particularly
since England and their star striker got off to an awful start. A 1-0 loss to Portugal
was followed by a 0-0 draw with Morocco. Then, needing a big result in their third group
game, Bobby Robson made a decision that would change the course of Lineker’s career. He brought in the ever-creative Peter Beardsley
to play in support of him and the partnership flourished. A Lineker hat-trick against Poland
in the last group game saw England qualify for the knock-out rounds. Two more followed
in the second round, with Beardsley getting one of his own in a 3-0 win over Paraguay.
The new-look attack invigorated the side. Lineker’s goal against Argentina in the next
round, the quarter-final, was merely a consolation though – it was the infamous “the Hand of
God” game which saw Diego Maradona score one of the game’s most notorious goals, and also
one of its finest, as he first punched the ball into the net over Peter Shilton’s outstretched
arms, before then dribbling half the length of the pitch and cutting through the entire
England defence. It may ultimately be remembered as Maradona’s
World Cup, but Lineker outscored him, earning the Golden Boot after six goals in five appearances. And Barcelona did, indeed, still want him
after the tournament finished. His time at the Nou Camp started brilliantly,
and on January 31st 1987 he wrote himself a permanent place in Barca folklore with a
hat-trick against Real Madrid As Real Madrid’s Jorge Valdano said of Barca’s
deadly English finisher – “Lineker would kill them all in the Wild West”. He finished the season with 20 goals in 41
league games. Sadly, Terry Venables would be sacked as Barcelona’s
manager at the end of that first year and would be replaced by Johan Cruyff, who attempted
to transform Lineker into a right-sided winger. He would leave Barcelona in 1989, moving back
to England and to White Hart Lane, where Venables had taken over at Tottenham. Lineker would explain the decision in an interview
with Mundial Magazine. “I had no real choice; I had to do it for
career reasons because Cruyff came in. I’d had two good seasons playing up front, and
you were only allowed two foreign players in those days, and I think he wanted his own
foreign players, which is understandable. He tried to mess me about and played me on
the wing, so I just had to go.” In his first season back in England, Lineker
took his place back at the top of the goalscoring charts, scoring 24 times for Spurs
and re-emphasising his importance to the national team ahead of the 1990 World Cup. In Italy, England would go one better than
they had in Mexico four years earlier, reaching the semi-finals and losing only on penalties
to eventual winners West Germany. Lineker had a fine tournament, remembered for his
two nerveless penalties against Cameroon and, famously, his late equaliser against the West
Germans in Turin. At the end of the following season he helped
Spurs to an FA Cup, scoring a brace in the semi-final against Arsenal, two of the 19
goals he scored in all competitions. The following season saw him back on top form,
scoring 28 league goals, his best since his 30-goal season with Everton in 85/86. While his domestic career in England finished
on a high, his international career did not. As part of his spectacularly unsuccessful
reign in charge, Graham Taylor marginalised Lineker. With his team stuck at 1-1 and needing
a goal, with Lineker just one short of Sir Bobby
Charlton’s then-record, Taylor took his striker off in the 61stminute of the European Championship
group game with Sweden. England would lose 2-1, suffer elimination
from the tournament, and Lineker would never play for his country again. It was an inglorious
end to an outstanding career. In his final club move, he surprised the footballing
world, heading off to Japan to join Nagoya Grampus Eight to be a superstar player in
the brand-new J League. He was to be the face of the new division,
to be heavily merchandised, and to become a household name in Japan. Injuries prevented
him making a major on-pitch impact, though, and after two season he retired from playing,
beginning what would become a highly successful second Act in the media. Today, Lineker is a figure beyond football.
A seasoned presenter, the face of the BBC and, on social media, an increasingly bold
political voice,, but he should always be remembered as the superb player he was too.
A sniper, a predator, and one of the finest penalty box forwards of his time.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Anyone interested in watching an interview of him talking about his playing days should watch the video on the bt sports football channel called what I wore Gary Lineker.

  2. When he first started as a TV Presenter he was really really bad, but he stuck at it and has been very good for many years.
    You would never have believed he would be from his start.
    Seems one of his outstanding personal characteristics is an internal tenacity.

  3. Legend has it Lineker was so poor growing up he used to have to practice football with potatoes. He would then sell the mangled potato shards at markets. These were the first crisps

  4. Why would you gloss over his time at Barcelona like that? He won his most important trophy here, the Cup Winner's Cup, and a Copa del Rey, and scored 52 in 137.

  5. I think it would be a nice idea to do a brief history of Everton in the 80s. I think people forget how good they were during that decade because English clubs were banned from Europe so they couldn’t have a historic run in the competition like Forest or Villa before them.

  6. 1) Everton were powerhouse in the 80s. You said 90s. 2) Lineker scored 40 goals in ALL competitions for Everton that season, not 38. 3) Luis Aragones replaced Venebles at Barcelona, not Cruyff. The research as "brief" as the history?

  7. Tut tut TIFO- shock horror- you said Everton were a powerhouse in the 1990's- really? in which timeline was that? I think you meant the 1980's- when Lineker actually played for them- i'll let you off this time as ive seen loads of great TIFO videos and im a big fan- but lets not get complacent with your facts- cheers

  8. If Leicester win the league he's gunna shave his head this time. Which will NOT be a good look for a man with ears as ridiculous as his lol He didn’t think he was good enough to be playing for England when he first got his cap. Which is unusual for a player to say. Normally players are so convinced of their own ability even if they’re shit lol

  9. If Everton pay £800,000 in 1985. How much would Lineker be worth to Everton today? Lineker one better England Captain. Sad how Linker end this England Career. 80 England caps & 48 goals not bad at all.

  10. And now hes an overpaid host on a network you legally have to fund even if you dont watch it and a hypocrite who said we should take in migrants but has yet to house any himself.

  11. Lineker always has the best opinions… like he praises Messi and TAA, as they are both playing well… Bashed Aurier for playing horribly below average vs Liverpool. His opinions are horribly underrated…

  12. And yet, despite 30 goals Everton seemed diminished with him that year. It was like a team that had been put together to score from all over the pitch suddenly had to channel and ficus on one player and we lost that extra gear we had the season before, with Andy Gray and the season after with "no-name" Wayne Clarke.

    Rather than the old chestnut about him soiling himself in a world cup semi final, it would have been better to focus on the way he flagged to Bobby Robson that Gascoigne was falling to pieces – the "keep your eyes on him" signal. That shows him for the profoundly decent man and well as the thinking footballer he was.

  13. gary lineker is THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN BRITAIN. he hates democracy and abuses his position as a BBC luvvy elite to attack are troops who VOTED FOR INDEPENDENCE. When will the remoaner elite learn?!?! Now your true allegiances have been revealed I have now UNSUBSCRIBED and DOWN VOTED your channel and video. You lost GET OVER IT. The PEOPLE'S ARMY MARCHES ON

  14. 5:30
    You left out his career highlight…
    Italia '90, Cagliari, June 21 (1990), England versus Republic of Ireland: scoring a 9th minute goal and then getting caught short or, as he put it in an interview, "relaxing himself" on the pitch in the second half 😉
    England got properly lucky against the Roger Milla-inspited Cameroun in the quarter final…

  15. IIRC, he wasn't the only foreign star to join the J-League at the time: think every team of the inaugural season had at least someone of note.

    Zico at Kashima Antlers comes to mind.

  16. Great player but can't stand him as a presenter. Despite earnig £1.75 million per year as the BBC's highest paid presenter he is "forced" to present champions league coverage on BT Sport. I mean, how can you survive on that? Me Jealous? You bet.

  17. Great player but can't stand him as a presenter. Despite earnig £1.75 million per year as the BBC's highest paid presenter he is "forced" to present champions league coverage on BT Sport. I mean, how can you survive on that? Me Jealous? You bet.

  18. They forgot to mention his efforts to help rescue Leicester from bankruptcy/administration which then began the greatest comeback story in the history of sports.

  19. Fucking , pathetic commentators!!
    "Shit himself on the pitch"
    The only reason why you loosers didnt shit yourself on the pitch , is you never made it being on the pitch.

  20. If he had joined us at United in the summer of 1985 instead of Everton we would have won the championship that season. The goals dried up for us in the 2nd half of the 85/86 season and with him playing that wouldn’t have happened. He was offered to United and he wanted to come but for some reason it didn’t happen and he went to goodison instead. Great striker.

  21. Football manager hard-coded Linekers ID in the yellow card/red card subroutine so that it was impossible for the virtual Lineker to get a card in a football manager game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *