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Gary Lineker takes on 'Match of the Day' critics: 'We're unique'

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Gary Lineker has defended Match of the Day from criticism of its football analysis and punditry.

The former England striker has presented the highlights show since Des Lynam's departure in 1999. It has in recent years been criticised by Stan Collymore and others for a lack of quality in its analysis.

Gary Lineker on 'Match of the Day'

© BBC

Gary Lineker on 'Match of the Day'



"It's comfortably the most difficult thing in terms of football punditry on television," Lineker told Digital Spy.

"It's the most-watched show for a start - it's not an anoraky kind of show, we don't have hours.

"Our show is not aimed at people that think they're technically better than they are because they play FIFA or whatever.

"It's aimed at the general public who want to watch the highlights of their teams with a little of bit of a) analysis b) opinion and c) news stories of the day. We also have, obviously, very little time."


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He continued: "The main thing for our show, which has never been the case in the past until we got Match of the Day back this time, we have to have highlights of every game - we give at least five minutes to every game.

"There are some people who would like more analysis and less action and there are some people that would like no analysis and all action. But it's a question for us of trying to find a balance.

"The large majority of people are absolutely happy that's the way it is. We constantly try to find the right sort of balance between the two things."

Gary Lineker is painted to blend in with a vegetable shelf for Walkers

© Rex Features / Walkers

Gary Lineker is camouflaged for Walkers campaign



Lineker said: "People are critical of everything, particularly in football. You expect that. But the figures are holding up.

"Year-on-year we keep getting more people watching, which is quite amazing to be perfectly honest, when you consider how much football is on television nowadays.

"It is a very tough programme for pundits to do, because they have very little time.

"Sometimes they have two and a half or three minutes for their main analysis, which obviously they can only do on the games that they watch."


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He added: "Sometimes they'll have 33 seconds or 27 seconds and there's only so much you can say in that time.

"People have no idea how hard it is. For me asking questions it's not such a big deal. Loads of the times I'd love to ask another ten questions on each thing.

"Obviously I watch a lot of live football and they have hours before and after a game to talk things through.

"I watched Gary Neville, who I think is terrific, I watched him do eight minutes on one corner kick.

"You could never ever do that in a million years on Match of the Day, you just couldn't. Most of the audience would switch off.

"They're dealing with absolute, not anorak, but a real football audience and limited audience at that. It's different skills, different programmes."

Gary Lineker is painted to blend in with a vegetable shelf for Walkers

© Rex Features / Walkers

Gary Lineker is camouflaged for Walkers campaign



Lineker continued: "Generally it works and generally the balance is right. Sometimes we might get it wrong.

"We'll listen. We get a lot of feedback now on social media, etc. We're constantly trying to improve, constantly trying to update and get better. But by and large it is what it is. It can't really be any different.

"We say to people, 'What would you do different?' and beyond saying, 'I don't like this pundit' or, 'I don't like that pundit' - because everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to pundits.

"One man's pundit is another man's poison, that's for sure! By and large our guys are good and know what they're doing."

Michael Owen on BT Sport

Michael Owen on BT Sport



Asked if he felt pressure from the BBC to maintain ratings given the increased competition from Sky, BT Sport and the goals packages on The Sun and The Times websites, Lineker said: "Our ratings are amazing.

"We're still comfortably the best-watched show... none of these things have made any difference to us. Our programme's pretty unique.

"It appeals to people, highlights of Premier League games - it just works. Even boring games can look good in a five-minute edit!"

Of Alan Hansen's decision to retire from the show at the end of next year's World Cup in Brazil, Lineker said: "Obviously I knew quite a while ago because Alan's a good friend, so I wasn't surprised by the announcement.

Alan Hansen

© Rex Features / Hannah Young

Alan Hansen



"To my mind he's been top of his field for two decades, so obviously it's a loss to Match of the Day. He feels it's the right time for him to go.

"I understand in terms of punditry that there's a sense of repetition. In terms of what you say week-in, week-out, it's hard to be fresh after a long period of time.

"But at the same time he continues to point out things that are not readily obvious to the viewer, which is the secret of being a good pundit, which not many manage to do.

"He's always done that, particularly in terms of defensive football. We'll miss him a lot. It's a shame, but we respect his decision of course."



Asked what players could replace Hansen, Lineker said: "We're obviously looking at the moment.

"We're mixing up our pundits quite a lot this season, we were doing that even before Alan's announcement.

"We may just mix them around more than have complete regulars all the time. Obviously we have got our regulars - the likes of the two Alans.

"With lots of players you never quite know what they're going to go into. Obviously we used Phil Neville a couple of times and he decided not to go into television, but to go into coaching with Manchester United."

Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, Rafael and Rio Ferdinand, from right, pursue Manchester City's Carlos Tevez, left, during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday April 8, 2013

© PA Images / Jon Super/AP

Rio Ferdinand in action



He added: "Looking down the line you could see possibly the likes of - who knows - Frank Lampard, Stevie Gerrard in two or three years' time. Rio Ferdinand, obviously

"Players in their 30s who are articulate and intelligent and who might go into making good TV. But you don't know that's the direction that they want to take. We'll wait and see."

Asked if he would ever move away from television and into management, Lineker quipped: "I'm very happy in telly. It's a lot easier to be on telly and talk about it than do it yourself.

"Nah, it's not something that's ever appealed and not something I think I'd be particularly good at either, so you won't see me doing that."

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