Here’s an interesting question: what does Gary Lineker really hate? He is widely renowned to be a nice guy; never sent off in his playing career, seldom allows himself to get emotionally involved in contentious incidents on Match of the Day – even when he asks interviewees difficult questions he manages to do so with a dispassionate air.
So what would get him really riled? What would make him drop his laconic façade and get him saying something outrageous?
Apparently it is pushy parents, internet trolls and... box junctions. We know this because Lineker revealed all on Room 101 on Friday night.
The first two are within the realms of possibility. Lineker argued against over-zealous mums and dads with surprising passion (“they are so competitive that it is impossible for the kids to enjoy football”). He is also a prolific, prominent and popular Twitter user and therefore a likely target of bozos with more fingers than sense.
But box junctions? Really? Is that the best suggestion he could come up with, in the “wildcard” category of a gameshow, on what is supposed to be a prime-time light entertainment slot? As the host Frank Skinner – a professional comedian, let’s not forget – showed, it is very difficult to say anything witty about box junctions.
As part of the discussion on trolls Lineker was shown to be quite forthright on Twitter about Sepp Blatter, although he is far from alone in that way of thinking. If only he had chosen the Fifa despot to chuck into the Orwellian bin, silencing the crowd with a sweep of his hand before going all Olivier with: “Cast this potato-headed plutocrat, who is making a mockery of the game I love... into oblivion!” But he didn’t. Instead he mumbled about box junctions being annoying for those turning right.
Coincidentally – if such a notion exists on a strictly formatted show with vetted and prepped guests – Lineker was faced with an adversary in Fay Ripley, the actress, who put forward football pundits as one of her pet hates. After much mock outrage from Lineker, she explained why: “You do point out the bleeding obvious. I want to hear ‘he is the one with the new kitchen’ or ‘that player gave to charity last week’. Make it interesting for women.”
Ignoring the inherent sexism in Ripley’s comments, she did have a point. But Lineker held his own admirably. On the world of punditry being full of former players, he said: “Quite rightly so. Who else would you rather tell you about what’s going on?”
Then, directed at Ripley, he added in a rare moment of seriousness in the show: “As far as we [presumably the BBC] are concerned, we do have women pundits and we’ve got the women’s World Cup coming up – it is there if you want to see it.”
In stating his and his employer’s defence, Lineker looked a little emotional, passionate – heated, even. Riled? Not quite. We still don’t know what gets the man hot under the collar. Box junctions? Yeah, right.