HAS GARY LINEKER GONE MAD?
Mickey Blue Eyes
I ask this question because his BBC TV talking head chats have taken a quite uncharacteristic turn this season, a decisive move away from the cheerful chintz that made him acceptable to Beeb Suits. Let's face it, we got too used to Gary's muted rambles and half-hearted "banter" with whichever pundits sat opposite, usually ex pinkies Hansen and Lawrenson. Both of them were a near-perfect foghorn counterpoint to Gary's low moo; Hansen used to shout a lot and "Lawro" would sulk for ever if anyone interrupted him in full diatribe. But time moved on and they all began to mellow, or perhaps they just got bored. As age took its toll Gary simply greyed up, Hansen tried dyeing his hair and Lawro's gut folded over his belt as his infamous centre part slowly widened and his hair started thinning. Match of the Day became, and is, a sorry tired spectacle.
Meanwhile, Gary started doing TV commercials for Walker's Crisps, some of which depicted him as a comic villain. It didn't work. It was the equivalent of trying to morph Old Mother Hubbard into Ron Perelman, and ending up with a PMT Dawn French. Hansen started doing grocery ads. Lawro turned to radio and TV sound-only match punditry, at which he is rather good and which is a blessing because we don't have to see his bloodhound kipper. Last week Gary appeared on your flat screen as the rear end of a pantomime donkey promoting a charity. Appropriately he had his face stuck in a blond woman's behind. Desperation was writ large on his face if not on her bottom.
But the worst development is Gary's attempted persona change for Match of the Day. Suddenly he made his intro and delivery while standing up. Dramatic hand gestures materialised to supplement a new Yank-style melodramatic vocabulary. Words like "amazing," "fantastic," "incredible," "mind boggling," "awesome" (sometimes even as "ossom"), and "astounding" were applied. His facial expressions now bear the distinct impression of badly-taught schlock theatre. Gary's gone all tabloid TV, probably at the behest of someone straight out of the Gazza School of Public Relations as the Beeb prepares for the scam of privatisation and adverts.
Inevitably the search is on for a replacement formula with Gary's, Hansen's and Lawro's usefulness beginning to fade. Alternative presenters and pundits are tried. Clearly there is much shuffling for position as new boys bid for pole position. This ranges from the incomprehensible and odd Colin Murray to the pristine mullet that is Manish Basin. Of these two my money's on Manish, a near-perfect BBC module right down to the voice, Welwyn Garden City clothes and adolescent Des Lynamisms. New pundits have appeared too, chief of which are balding unperson Alan Shearer and Lee Dixon, a sort of earnest, Thames-based expat Manc trying hard to impress the front office. Genial Dion Dublin also shows up now and then but he's far too natural for the Beeb, unless he has his personality vacuumed through his nasal passage.
But spare a thought for likeable Gary and the lads as they transit this vital moment in their media careers. It can't be easy as they try to strike a balance and cope with those new, awful floating graphics and schoolboy headlines meandering above their heads. Me, I can do without all the song and dance: I just want to see maximum footy and less Yank-style bullshit.
I can dream.