Brian Viner: Normal service is resumed when 'Match of the Day' returns to Saturday

It's good to see Match of the Day returning to Saturday nights. In fact I'm happier to see Match of the Day back than I am to see the Premiership season, which, along with most others Evertonians I know, I am approaching with the optimistic saunter, the carefree joie de vivre, of a man heading off to toil in a salt mine for eight months.

So thank heavens for Match of the Day. It will be nice to get a weekly dose of the familiar theme tune, and I mean no disrespect to ITV, which made a decent fist of the footie highlights once Terry Venables had had his Meccano, sorry, his Pro-Zone set taken away from him, and the producers realised that it was unfair on Andy Townsend to shut him in the back of a van.

But some things are meant to be, and Saturday-night highlights on BBC1 is one of them, although amid all the satisfaction at Television Centre that the football has been wrested back, I have attempted to make a little mischief with both Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen, trying to tease out of them even a flicker of disappointment that their Saturdays are no longer their own.

Neither would play ball, ironically, although Lineker did say that Saturdays are when his sons play sport for their school, and he will miss being on the touchline. He also told me that when he had a football-related barney recently with his eldest boy, George, who is a highly opinionated 12, George snapped, "You know what the trouble with you is, don't you?" "What's that?" Lineker said. "You think," said George, "that you were so good at football!" I love that. Lineker, you'll recall, scored 48 goals for England.

As for Hansen, for the last three years he has spent his Saturday mornings playing golf at Hillside, near his home in Southport, and then, when Liverpool were at home, tootling off to Anfield in the afternoon.

But on Thursday when we had a chinwag - as all conversations with Match of the Day personnel are called, in honour of Jimmy Hill - he insisted that he was looking forward to being back in the thick of it, not least because the banter while they're all watching the Saturday matches live in the production room replicates the spirit of the dressing-room, which is the one thing he still misses from his playing career. That career, of course, was incomparably distinguished. I don't think there's anyone in English football with a haul of medals like Hansen's, whose centre-back partnership with Mark Lawrenson remains probably the greatest of all time, although what kind of Evertonian would I be if I didn't assert that Kevin Ratcliffe and Derek Mountfield ran them close?

And what kind of journalist would I be if I didn't quiz Hansen on the implications of Michael Owen leaving Liverpool?

The idea that any Liverpool player should have to leave to be sure of winning medals is one he still struggles with. "It shows how far Liverpool have fallen," he said. "But for the past 18 months at Anfield I've been watching poor, poor football. I think the chairman backed Houllier to the hilt as long as he possibly could."

Hansen implied that he was disappointed with the appointment of Rafael Benitez to succeed Gérard Houllier, saying: "I'd love to have seen a British manager at Liverpool'."

But he declined to fuel the rumour that Owen has been underwhelmed by Benitez. "Some rumours are just invented, like that stupid one I kept hearing about Martin O'Neill buying a house on the Wirral. But I did hear that Benitez was unhappy that Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Danny Murphy and Jamie Carragher sat at the same table every day. That wouldn't have happened in 1982. Whoever was there, you sat with.

"I think that Danny Murphy hit the nail on the head when he left. He said that the things that set Liverpool apart have gone a bit. Maybe because of so many players coming in who don't speak English very well, I don't know."

Unlike me, Hansen is excited about the new Premiership season. "For the first time in ages three clubs can genuinely win it. And there are three questions to be answered: can Chelsea win the title with money, can Arsenal become the dominant force in English football, can Manchester United bounce back? Manchester United thrive on people writing them off, but it will be harder for them than ever."

Speaking of difficulties ahead, never mind the top, what of the bottom? Does the Liverpool legend think Everton will go down?

"No," said the man who predicted that United would win "nothing with kids" the year they won the Double, firmly.

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas
film
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee