Review of the match of the day: the return of Lineker restores charm and calm | Television & radio

“Ah,” tweeted Gary Lineker from the Etihad Stadium, an hour before the start of BBC One coverage of Manchester City against Burnley in the FA Cup quarter-final. “The joys of being allowed to stick to football.”

The speed of the modern news cycle means it seems like months have passed since Lineker was suspended by the BBC for criticizing the government’s immigration policy, but in fact it’s only the weekend- As of late, Match of the Day aired as a 20-minute envelope of a program, with no presenter or commentator agreeing to work on it in Lineker’s absence. In an extraordinary show of solidarity from BBC staff and freelancers, other TV and radio football shows were forced off the air.

By Monday morning, the Beeb had come back down, coyly promising to review its rules on social media impartiality. Lineker’s brief Twitter thread that followed included a further appeal for sympathy for refugees; his avatar on the app was quietly changed to a picture of him in front of the George Orwell quote on the wall outside Broadcasting House, the one about freedom being “the right to tell people what they don’t want not hear”.

After that comfortable 1-0 win, Lineker enjoyed a normal week online – commenting on Champions League goals, retweeting funny viral clips and recommending podcasts which happened to be made by his production company – before to return to work.

Cup weekend meant Lineker’s comeback started early, featuring a live match in the late afternoon. But that didn’t change the first question viewers wanted to answer: what would Gary’s opening line be? Surely that wouldn’t be just the usual fare, a basic but timely gag on Alan Shearer’s baldness or Micah Richards’ vanity?

Gary Lineker with Alan Shearer (centre) and Micah Richards during the day’s FA Cup game between Manchester City and Burnley. Photography: BBC

Perhaps being back in the presenter’s seat was enough, as Lineker solved the problem of knowing what to say on camera by saying nothing. Instead, the opening shot was of a young Burnley fan as Lineker, battling a cold, voiced a video package about Burnley manager Vincent Kompany.

When we finally cut the presenters, Lineker just turned to Shearer and said, “Alan, it’s great to be here.” Shearer, glancing nervously at a sheet of paper, duly gave a short, slightly poignant speech about the farrago of the previous week: on the radio were put in an impossible situation, and it wasn’t fair. So it’s good to get back to some sort of normalcy and talk about football again.

Lineker agreed, and that was it. The show continued, with Lineker barely noticeable as a good host should be, quietly giving professional insight into a discussion of Kompany’s qualities and pulling the signature move of referencing his own football career by saying of City striker Erling Haaland: “He scores proper goals…all in the penalty area.”

After a conversation with a few minor laughs, some light football experience and a complete lack of awkward pauses, Lineker handed over to commentator Guy Mowbray on time. Another easy win was in the bag.

theguardian Gt

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button