It's day two of "Inside the Football Media" week at Bleacher Report, and today's subject is as high-profile as they come—former Everton, Spurs, Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker, who hosts the BBC's flagship Match of the Day show on Saturday nights, and also contributes to NBC Sports and Al Jazeera.
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BLEACHER REPORT: At what in point in your playing career did you begin to think the media was an option?
GARY LINEKER: I don't think there was a definite day, but it would have been around my mid-20s. I was always interested in the media side of things. When we travelled with England away, or to World Cups, I used to sit with journos while they wrote their copy.
I thought it was an area I could go into, and in particular the presenter side. There seemed to be a niche there for an ex-player who had played at the highest level.
BR: How did you come upon the Match of the Day job, arguably one of the most iconic roles in the UK football media?
GL: You start to do a little bit of media work while you're playing. So I'd always say yes to TV interviews—let them know that was where I wanted to go. I started doing radio, presenting the Tuesday night show for 5Live, and then a Sunday show.
It all started with punditry, but my aim was to present. When Bob Wilson left the BBC for ITV I got the Football Focus job and it went from there. It came completely out of the blue, but the fact I had a high profile certainly helped.
BR: How has TV coverage of football changed since your playing days?
GL: In terms of the presenting side, it's really not changed that much. You've still got to introduce a football match. And not be afraid to use humour.
For the pundits it's changed. There are so many more stats available thanks to technology. I try to use the more quirky ones when I can—to help illustrate a point.
BR: Do you feel nervous presenting a live show to millions of viewers?
GL: I don't really get nervous. For the first few I did—I didn't know what the hell I was doing! But these days I just love it. The bigger the game, the better. It's not as high-pressure as playing football, and it's not affecting people's lives if I fluff a word.
It's nice in a sense you're still involved in the game, so it helps replace that adrenalin flowing.
BR: At what point in the week do you start focusing on Match of the Day?
GL: I'm talking about football all the time. During the week it's just about keeping an eye on news. You can do that so immediately with vehicles like Twitter—following the story, transfer rumours, managers under pressure.
There's really not much I can do before the weekend. I can't write the script until the games are finished. I sit down at 5 p.m. on Saturday and write the show, while we do our research.
BR: Who's been the best analyst you've worked with?
GL: Most of the people I've worked with have been great. If I had to pick one it would be Alan Hansen. The key is showing you things you can't do for yourself at home, and Hansen does that for me every week. Times are changing, though—Hansen retires at the end of the season and Mark Lawrenson's not doing Saturdays.
BR: You'll be covering this summer's World Cup. Is there still a big part of you that's envious of the players on the pitch?
GL: They are the biggest moments in a footballer's life. It's just nice to have done it and got away with. World Cups can be career-defining.
Looking at the way the game is played I'm envious of the conditions. We played on some ropey World Cup surfaces. I genuinely never look back and wish I earned the money they do today, but I do think of that element. It encourages the kind of football we've seen in recent years.
BR: Who are the best young pundits coming through in England?
GL: Gary Neville has been excellent. Over my time I'd highlight Hansen, Andy Gray and also Alan Shearer—he's come on leaps and bounds.