Full Name: Gary Winston Lineker
Date of Birth: 30/11/1960
Like him or love him, there are few people who would say they don’t have a soft spot for Gary Linekar. He is not only a football legend but a national English treasure and the face of football on the BBC. Lineker was a predator in the six yard box. He seemed to know exactly where to position himself so the ball would arrive at him and he’d grab a quick goal. Not the most flamboyant of players but certainly one of the most deadly in terms of scoring goals. He is England’s second highest scoring goal scorer of all time. And who’d have thought it from a TV presenter!
Making Leicester famous for more than just crisps…
Gary Winston Lineker always loved sport. He grew up in Leicester in the very middle of the middle of England. His father was a greengrocer and the trade had been with the Linekers for over 70 years. Linker had his heart set on sport though and was more than accomplished at most he played. An old school report famously said about Lineker that “He must devote less time to his sport if he is to be a success”.
Gary was spotted playing football by local team Leicester City when playing at 13 and he was invited to play for their youth team. When he was 16 Gary started playing full-time. At 18 he started playing for the first team and within a couple of professional years he was already starting to make a prolific name for himself, finishing each season with enough goals to place him up there with the other leading goal scorers in the then Division One. In 1984/85 season Gary finished as top goal-scorer with 24 and this prompted attention from the England international team.
Ferry across to the Mersey
Gary moved to Everton in 1985 and didn’t stop scoring for them either. He bagged a staggering 38 goals in only 52 games for The Toffees and finished top goal scorer again. During this period though it was when the rest of Europe started to become very tempted by such a deadly match-winner as Lineker and the skinny lad from Leicester soon fell onto the radar of the big boys from Spain.
Big-ears goes to big club
Barcelona called and Gary answered and in 1986 Lineker moved to Spanish giants Barcelona. In the same year Gary played in the Mexican World Cup and won the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in the competition. The Spaniards were rubbing their hands at the prospect of a repeat performance at the Nou Camp.
Gary did it again and he netted 21 goals for Barca in only 41 games, including a hat-trick against arch rivals Real Madrid, which led him to cult status amongst the fans. He was becoming prolific and an absolute nightmare to defend against. With Lineker up-front Barcelona went on to win the UEFA Cup and the Copa del Rev but a fall out with Dutch legend Johan Cruiff, when he was suddenly moved out of position to the right-wing, spelt time at the Barca for golden-boot-Gary.
Lineker passed on Manchester United’s generous offers and decided his return to English football would be with north London’s Tottenham Hotspur. It was here that Gary entered the peak of his form. From 105 games Gary scored in over half of them with a whopping 67 goals. He helped them win the FA Cup and, playing alongside Paul Gascoigne for most of it, he made Spurs a force to be reckoned with. Gary was voted third in the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1991.
The Setting Sun of Japan
One of the most unexpected transfer moves of all time came when Gary Lineker decided to move to Japan to play for Nagoya Grampus Eight. No one in Europe seemed to even know Japan had a football league, let alone feel they deserved such a legend as Lineker. But Gary felt his struggling injuries and weariness of the European game meant a growing football nation would suit him perfectly and also hugely benefit the country’s desire to improve their football profile. He was loved in Japan and, although he only played 23 games in the two seasons he was there, he still couldn’t resist scoring 9 more goals to add to his huge tally.
Gary finished his club football career having never received a yellow or red card. He was the ultimate sportsman and the ultimate gentleman. He was one of the greatest examples of an England player we have ever seen and his goals for his country were some of the most crucial in history.
|1992-4||Nagoya Grampus Eight||23||9|
Awards and Honours
- Fifa World Cup – Golden Shoe: 1986 (Mexico)
- English League Top Scorer: 1985, 1986, 1990
We’re singing for England….
It began in 1984 against Scotland. It ended with 80 appearances and a staggering (but expected from Gary) 48 goals. None were more vital than in the Mexico World Cup finals when Gary helped England to qualify for the knock-out stages by scoring an incredible hat-trick against Poland. Then against Paraguay he struck twice again to send them into the quarter finals to face Argentina. But sadly Lineker’s one goal was no match for another legend called Maradona’s two. England went out but would be back in 1990 for more drama.
Italia 90 will go down in history as being one of the most dramatic moments in football for all teams involved but particularly for England. Lineker scored one of only two England goals in the group stages but then made up for it when they got to the quarter finals having beaten Belgium in the round before. His two penalties against Cameroon in the quarter-finals meant England would face their arch-rivals West Germany in the semis. It would go down as one of the most famous games of football ever. Gazza’s tears, Lineker’s 80th minute equaliser and that penalty shoot-out. Which England of course lost.
After this came a somewhat sad end to his England career when, in the Euro 92 tournament, new coach Graham Taylor subbed Lineker and prevented him from trying to beat Bobby Charton’s top goal scoring record. He was upset and didn’t play for England again.
Off the pitch…
At times you’d be forgiven for even remembering that Lineker was even a footballer. He is such an icon of British sport on television now that it seems he’s always been doing it. Coming on as sub in the early nineties for Des Lynam but eventually being promoted to the first team, Linker was to be the new face of the institutional Match of the Day programme. He also rose up the ranks in TV when he was a regular captain on the sports game-show They Think It’s All Over, which often revealed a more humane and jovial side to him. Gary still presents Match of the Day today, as well as the BBCs coverage of The Masters and various other occasional programmes.
Aside from sport, Gary is also well know for his appearance in the Leicester-based company Walkers Crisps adverts. Which have used his squeaky clean image and reversed it to show how irresistible they are. Here is one when Gary came back from Japan.
In his personal life Gary married his child-hood sweet heart Michelle and they had four sons together. His oldest boy George was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was only a baby but he has since made a full recovery. He divorced from Michelle in 2007 but they remain amiable.
Lineker continues to present sport on the BBC as well as voicing narration for children’s programme Underground Ernie and appearing as himself in the odd film too. He will always be a national treasure for the English. A man we all wish we knew; he feels like one of us. A great footballer and a great ambassador for the game of football and for sport in general.