Sport on TV: Meet Gary Lineker's black sheep who fleeced local gentry


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The Independent Online

Gary Lineker's strange, rubbery face is among the most instantly recognisable in the country. Unlike many a prima donna footballer he probably never has to splutter: "Don't you know who I am?" But he was the latest to find out about himself in Who do you think you are? (BBC1, Wednesday). When you find out that Gary's dad was called Barry and his grandfather was called Harry, you just know that he comes from a somewhat different background to Sir Matthew Pinsent, who discovered that he was directly related to King John, the signatory to Britain's constitution, and thereby to Jesus and, er, God through the ancient belief in the divine right of kings. It's just a shame that Gary didn't follow in his own family tradition by calling one of his four sons Larry. But then the poor lamb might have turned into the black sheep of the family. They would have made mincemeat of him at school.

The genealogist Anthony Adolf (who were his forebears?) told Lineker: "Black sheep make more interesting ancestors." The former England striker looked a bit sheepish himself. He made mention of his younger brother Wayne, who owns a load of bars in the Meditteranean, but did not go into detail about his prison sentence for fraud.

Lineker Snr is known as one of the nice guys, the acceptable if rather odd-looking face of football. So it was nice to see him wallowing in one of his antecedents' criminal past. James Pratt, his great great great grandfather, was also banged up for six months for larceny in 1848, in his case for stealing six hens from the local gentry. "He's nicked a few chickens, not exactly crime of the century," he says. "It's murder most foul."

In Leicester prison Lineker meets professor of criminology Barry Godfrey, who shows him an artists' impression of Pratt based on his charge sheet: there are the big ears, the thick lips, the "extra large" nose; they even share a scar on the same place on their foreheads, although Pratt did not get his playing against Poland at Wembley – and he looks much harder, there's no silly grin.

"I thought I was the first poacher in the family," sniggers Gary. You wonder how much time he was given by the programme-makers to come up with these painful gags. About 165 years, it seems like.

There's a curious hiatus while we watched Lineker prepare for Match of the Day, with Alan Shearer regaling the team with stories about him having a lasagna and a glass of red wine alone in his hotel room. It beats creosoting your fence, which is what he said he would do after winning the Championship with Blackburn.

Let's just hope they never delve into Shearer's past. If MOTD is said to need fresh personnel to liven it up a bit, Who do you think you are, Alan Shearer? could well prove the death of television. There might be some sheep involved – as Geordies they would be black and white – but it would be sheer boredom: you wouldn't need to count the flock to get yourself off to sleep.

* Matthew Hoggard was the last of the trio of sportsmen to leave the Celebrity Masterchef kitchen (BBC1, Friday). Joe Calzaghe was knocked out in the early rounds after cutting himself on a squid – a calamari calamity – and then calling in sick when he had to cook for the Harlequins rugby squad. Phillips Idowu didn't last long either but it was nice of him to turn up at all.

"Matthew's put a lot of work into this competition," said judge Greg Wallace, and at times it did seem like he was bowling uphill into the wind, sweat pouring from his pores into the orange and sesame jus.

Still, at least the 2005 Ashes winner didn't burn anything, though it was a shame he didn't put some kangaroo on the barbie. Or perhaps that would more suitable for a boxer or a triple jumper.