Football: Jones grabs Lineker by the tentacles

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The Independent Online

'Lineker has the charisma of a jellyfish - and is just as wet. He is a jellyfish without the sting'

Statement from 'Everyone at Wimbledon FC' yesterday

Gary Lineker has been called a lot of things in his time, most of them complimentary, but in his new role as a BBC sports presenter, the former England captain is obviously going to have to get used to the most stinging personal criticism.

In the latest of a series of tetchy exchanges between Lineker and Wimbledon FC, the south London club yesterday said Lineker had "the charisma of a jellyfish - and is just as wet".

Wimbledon's comments followed Lineker's cutting remarks about their captain, Vinnie Jones, in the latest edition of the Radio Times. "We don't need people like Vinnie Jones who is just a self-hyped personality - fine for him, but he isn't a good player and no benefit to the game," Lineker was quoted as saying.

In response, a faxed message from "Everyone At Wimbledon FC" entitled "The Jellyfish Man - Alias Gary Lineker" was circulated to the press yesterday, accompanied by a page full of largely illegible signatures and three neatly drawn jellyfish.

The insults began three years ago when Lineker claimed the best way to watch Wimbledon was on Ceefax. It continued after England's abandoned match in Dublin last year when Jones threw toast at Lineker and called him "Big Ears".

Also in the Radio Times article were references to Alex Ferguson ("He's a strange bloke - irritated by everyone I think") and Paul Gascoigne ("He has an in-built self-destruct button, like a naughty schoolboy") and Wimbledon were kind enough to answer back on behalf of the Manchester United manager and Rangers midfield player as well.

"Wimbledon Football Club regret Gary Lineker's personal criticism of their player, Vinnie Jones, and the comments he also made about Alex Ferguson and Paul Gascoigne," the statement began. "As a BBC sports presenter, he should aspire to the high standards that organisation has always stood for, not resort to smearing three fellow professionals...

"In his typical selfish way, Lineker is trying to promote himself as a strong man with strong opinions. But it can never happen... Lineker has the charisma of a jellyfish - and is just as wet. He is a jellyfish without a sting...

"The men he has attacked are all winners by nature and deed and he clearly envies them for one thing he will never have - a personality. The BBC has spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to make him the new face of television sport, but he simply has no charisma or presence about him...

"Lineker sends so many people to sleep, the BBC would do better marketing him as a cure for insomnia... The BBC are substantially lowering their usually high standards by trying to promote Lineker as a front man. It is an insult to Des Lynam and all sports lovers."

The BBC and Lineker declined to comment yesterday, but Lineker has been granted an open invitation: "Wimbledon would love to invite him to their training ground to discuss his opinions of Vinnie with the players," the statement ended.