Club Connector: Gary Lineker
Read about the life and times of the ex-Everton and Spurs man.
This week's club connector is a prolific striker whose predatory goalscoring instinct helped both Everton and Spurs...
July 1985 to August 1986
July 1989 to August 1992
ONE PROLIFIC SEASON
Lineker was one of the best strikers around when Everton paid Leicester City £800,000 for his services in the summer of 1985. The Blues were the reigning champions of England and holders of the European Cup Winners’ Cup but manager Howard Kendall was intent on strengthening his squad further with the addition of a striker who had blasted 24 goals the previous season for his hometown side.
It proved to be money well spent, although it was to end in a season of disappointment for Everton. Penalty box predator Lineker notched 40 goals in 57 games but the Blues narrowly and painfully missed out on both the FA Cup and the Division One title to Merseyside neighbours Liverpool.
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Lineker continued his hot-streak with England at the 1986 World Cup. Bobby Robson’s Three Lions were famously eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Argentina but Lineker’s six goals were enough to win him the Golden Boot award.
Lineker’s record with Everton had already brought attention from Barcelona and his exploits in Mexico prompted further interest from the Catalan giants. The striker was soon on his way to Spain for £2.8million.
Speaking to evertontv in 2008, Lineker recalled his Goodison Park exit. He said: “The funny thing is, Howard Kendall pulled me in before the end of the season and said that they’d had an offer from Barcelona and they were prepared to take it which took me aback a little bit because I thought I’d done pretty well.
“Lots of Evertonians still come up to me now and say, ‘oh, you shouldn’t have left’ but the thing is, when your club comes to you and says they’ve had an offer they’re gratefully accepting, you have to make a decision.”
MEMORIES OF A GOAL-LADEN CAMPAIGN
Lineker and his Everton strike partner Graeme Sharp smashed a staggering 63 goals between in all competitions in 1985/86. Sharpy spoke to evertontv earlier this week about their year together in attack.
The Scot recalled: “Gary came in and replaced Andy Gray who was a firm fans’ favourite. A lot of people were sceptical about it and wondered why we had changed the strike partnership but right from the very beginning you could see what he was - a quick striker with more pace than Andy. We changed our style of play slightly and went a bit more route-one where the ball would be played to myself and I’d knock it on to Gary who would exploit the lack of pace in defences - he was frightening over a short distance.
“For the season he was here, Gary was brilliant. He got the move to Barcelona and came back to England a better player when he moved to Tottenham. He was asked to play on the wing at Barca and at that time nobody would have ever imagined he had the ability to play there, but he went over to Spain and his football improved. I enjoyed playing alongside him, we had a good partnership and we were just unfortunate that year we just missed out on the FA Cup and also the league.
“I still see Gary now and again and I’ve been a guest of his a couple of times on Match of the Day. I think Gary gets a hard time sometimes with Everton fans, especially about how they aren’t shown first on a Saturday night! But I know he is proud of his year here and still has a lot of time for Everton.”
FOR THE OTHER SIDE
Lineker spent three seasons at the Nou Camp in which he scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid and helped Barcelona lift the Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners’ Cup. Unfortunately, he never got his hands on the La Liga title.
At the age of 28, he returned to England with Tottenham. Alex Ferguson had wanted to pair him with his former Barcelona teammate Mark Hughes at Manchester United but he instead opted for White Hart Lane in the summer of 1989.
Twenty-four goals in his first season saw him again finish as the Division One top scorer. The following year he won his first piece of silverware in England as Tottenham beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in the FA Cup final – a game remembered for Paul Gascoigne’s horrendous tackle on Gary Charles. Lineker had scored twice in the 3-1 semi-final victory over Arsenal but was unable to get his name on the scoresheet in the showpiece; he had a goal ruled out for offside and also saw a penalty saved by Mark Crossley.
Lineker never got the chance to compete in the Premier League. Another goal-laden season in 1991/92 - he hit the net 35 times in all competitions – was his last in England before he ended his playing days in Japan.
He moved to the J-League after a less-than-glorious end to his international career at Euro ’92 and spent two years with Grampus Eight before hanging up his boots in 1994. He finished with a marvellous record of 281 goals in just over 550 club appearances.
FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY
Lineker sits second behind Bobby Charlton in the all-time England scoring charts having struck 48 goals in 80 appearances – one behind the 1966 World Cup winner. Speaking about this achievement, the now 52-year-old later said: “If someone had told me at the start of my career that I would have been one off the record, I’d have thought they were stark raving mad.”
Lineker made his international debut as a substitute against Scotland in 1984 and played his last game for the Three Lions against Sweden in 1992 when he was infamously substituted by Graham Taylor.
Altogether, Lineker represented England at four major tournaments – the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and the 1988 and 1992 European Championships.
NEVER SHOWN YELLOW
Lineker, amazingly, went through his whole career without being cautioned. “I almost got booked for grinning at a ref in Spain,” he recalled in 2008. “He actually warned me to stop smiling and started to go for his pocket.”
LIFE IN THE MEDIA
Lineker is seen on television screens every Saturday evening in his role as the presenter on Match of the Day. He also anchors the BBC’s coverage of the US Masters golf tournament and was previously a team captain on the now-defunct comedy sports quiz They Think It’s All Over. Aside from sports coverage, Lineker has also been the face of the Walker’s crisps television adverts since 1995.