Women's football, racism and the plight of Sunderland and Newcastle - what Gary Lineker had to say on football at the 2019 South Shields Lecture
Football, Brexit and Everything in Between is what guests were promised when Gary Lineker came to South Shields to host a lecture with the town’s former MP David Miliband.
And the sportsman certainly delivered, treating a 600-strong audience to tales from his playing days, first forays into broadcasting and opinions on the country’s political issues.
Lineker did not shy away from discussing his views on Brexit, and how he thinks returning the decision on any deal to a public forum would be the most democratic course, and also shared some behind-the-scenes insight on training for England, signing for Barcelona and starting out with Leicester.
Here are some of the other topics covered during the body of the lecture, and in the audience questions afterwards – plus, what Lineker had to say about them:
North East football
Lineker was asked: “What do you think is wrong with football in the North East?”
“Nothing is wrong with it. It’s just going through a cycle,” he said – jokingly adding it may seem like a very long cycle to fans.
“It’s a hard one because you want owners that will commit to the club at Newcastle.
“They [Newcastle and Sunderland] have both gone through a period where perhaps the owners’ interests are not where they should be.
“You need the backing of the people in the football club and you need very good recruitment and good management.”
He was also asked: “What would you do if you were manager of Sunderland?”
Lineker quipped: “Resign!”
How football has changed
“I think the game is much better now. There have been such significant improvements.”
Lineker discussed the different kinds of intelligence in football – and said the top players all have a certain intelligence and spatial awareness, like Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, who plays as though he is watching himself from above.
Health and fitness was different in his playing days, the striker said. While they trained hard for the match, there was not as much weight training and other conditioning going on outside of that.
Racism in the game
Lineker spoke of playing for his country alongside John Barnes, and hearing England fans tell his teammate that he didn’t deserve to wear the strip.
“It’s worrying. It’s crept back onto the terraces."
“My hometown of Leicester is incredibly diverse and what makes me sad is that football often gets the brunt of it because of a few idiots, when actually football is a wonderful example of how totally diverse ethnicities work for each other and play for each other.”
Lineker was asked: “How different is the physicality in the Premier League from when you played?”
He said: “It’s less physical now than it used to be because of good law changes.”
He spoke about how cards are now “dished out regularly” in comparison to when he was a player – and that a lot of things he witnessed in previous games would not be allowed now.
Throughout his playing career, Lineker never received a yellow or red card.
Lineker was asked whether or not he followed women’s football, and if he was aware of the successes of Sunderland AFC Ladies.
He said: “I think it’s brilliant the way it’s growing, and the World Cup was hugely successful with big audiences.
“The more people that are playing football the better. The more women who are interested in the game is better for us. I think it’s great.”