Podcast: Gary Lineker in conversation with Tim Marlow
From his lucky boots to his favourite football stadiums and the match that made him emotional - hear Gary Lineker talk about some of the highlights in his career, and reflect on why football holds such an important position within our collective consciousness.
Welcome to the Design Museum podcast. Every episode, we bring you the most important insights into design, from our archive of live recordings, and explore new perspectives on stories at the heart of our exhibitions. In this episode, the design museum director Tim Marlow talks to former professional footballer and broadcaster Gary Lineker, the pair reflect on his 44-year career, including the many highs and lows of British football, new grounds, new stars, why football holds such an important position within our collective consciousness, as well as the themes explored in our exhibition, Football: Designing the Beautiful Game
Katie Wickremesinghe: Hi, everyone. Good evening. I'm Katie Wickremesinghe, founder of The Wick, a cultural content platform. On a mission to connect the culturally curious, we're really committed to forming new conversations and new connections which haven't been seen before. With over five and a half 1000 stadiums worldwide and the euro 2020s Reaching no less than 5 billion people. It's obvious that football is the most loved game in the world. And this exhibition delves into the design of the game behind the world's most love kits, football stadiums, and of course, team formations. So, we very much hope you will enjoy the conversation. Thank you very much
Tim Marlow: There's many things that are said about football evolving as a game in numbers, and we might look at the technical evolution of the game, but it's something that everyone has their origin, you know, when they first encountered football, when they first saw it, when they first played it. And I wonder whether that ever changes, but before we interrogate that, what's your first memory of football? I mean, was it in the garden, was it watching on television?
Gary Lineker: Playing with my brother in the garden, and it was every day I can't remember specifically the first one because it would have been before I could probably barely walk. According to my father I kicked it down but I don't remember that. My first match that I ever remember was, well there were two occasions, there was the first game I ever went to, which I was seven and I went my dad and my granddad who were season ticket holders at Leicester and we went to Filbert street and it's always stuck in my memory, was when I walked up the stairs and saw a green rectangle and then the players came out and they just seemed really big. And that was something that just and then the smell of the ground and it was just like magical, and it was less than Manchester United. And Manchester United won 2-1, my memory says it was Best and Charlton. I'm not sure it probably was. But they certainly played, and Law. And I was only focused on the Leicester goalkeeper, Peter Shilton who was unbelievable in that game and he made me support Leicester. So even though I was from Leicester, my dad, I would have done anyway I'm sure, but I wasn't distracted by Best, Law or Charlton.
TM: And you're not put off by the fact that Peter Shilton has been a big admirer, which is rare in football, of Jacob Rees-Mog, that's not your hero, he’s gonna wonder…
GL: I remember you, know that adage about never meet your heroes. And obviously, well – the weird thing is I watched Peter Shilton when I was seven. I then played for England with him, and we roomed together for eight years. Six years because the last two he didn't play for England anymore. And then, and then I've retired, and he still played for another 10 years. Which was mad, and I remember seeing and when he did the thing about, I think it was like Brexit or Jacob Rees-Mog, or one of his slightly right-wing tweets. And, and I remember tweeting back saying, ‘Never read a tweet from your heroes’. But Shilton is great.
My other major memory really was the first time I saw football on television was the 1970 World Cup of the brilliant Brazilian side. And of course, England played Germany in the quarterfinals. And that's the first game I remember, really seeing. Mainly because my dad always used to have like a weekly card game at home played a game called Kalooki. And they would start at six in the evening on say, a Sunday and my dad didn't work Monday, so they go on until like Monday night or even Tuesday morning. So, 24-hour marathons. And they always played, and I remember England played Germany in this game, and they actually stopped playing cards and watch the game and I watched the game with them and then England lost and I was in tears. And they just said, ‘Well, let's carry on playing cards’. So that weirdly stuck in my memory.
TM: So, if you go through the processes of youth teams and then becoming a very successful professional footballer, when do you stop being, you know, when does the boy in youleave you?
GL: I’m still waiting. [Laughs] That's a great question. I don't know I'd still jump around like a lunatic when Leicester win a big game or something or score a massive goal. And I think that's the special thing about football that, how emotive it is, and I think that's what's unique and why it's the global sport is because of the value of a goal really, because other sports you know, people sometimes, in America, they say the problem is ‘There's no goals, you never get a goal’. But that's its magic.
TM: You scored 238 club goals and 48 international goals - that's at the highest level. I'm not saying it, could you recount all of them now, but if you see a match programme, so if you see a match, and someone says right, you scored in that, can you immediately remember the goal?
TM: So, what percentage of it can you remember?
GL: Hardly any. [Laughs]
No, I'm not joking. I'm genuine and it worries me a little bit. But I've always been like that. I was at Atletico Madrid’s ground recently, someone said, ‘Did you score here’? I went ‘I don’t think so, I think we drew, I we drew nil-nil’ and he went, ‘you scored five goals in this ground’. I went, did I? I was deeply worried. What's wrong with me?
TM: So, well, it’s partly age, but also, I suppose you've watched so much football
GL: Even after you know, this has been the same for 20 odd years, I've been like this
TM: So, when you see footage of you scoring, I mean, that's let's say, you know, the goal he scored in the famous Maradona game, you know, the one where you scored two, you know. Does your memory get erased by seeing the mediated filmed goal? Or can you still remember what it was actually like to be in on the pitch actually knocking the ball in?
GL: Just told you, I can't remember hardly any goals. Now you're expecting me to remember what it felt like when I was moving in the box.
The feelings would have been the same with all my goals, it was basically like make a movement and then gamble on where the ball is gonna go. Because that's the, I just don't understand how, how lots of strikers don't get it. Because most of them wait to see where the ball is going, then attack it. What you've got to do is gamble on where the ball might go, attack a space and hope it goes where you’re going.
Nine times out of ten, it goes over your head, it goes beyond the goal, it goes into the keepers’ hands, it's behind you or whatever, but on the 10th time, and it might be the 89th minute, the ball goes exactly where you thought it might go if you're there, but you're there first because you've moved and just taking a chance. And then you're left with an easy tap in. Goalscoring, it’s mathematics, it’s gambling and it's mathematics.
TM: Okay and what about tactics? I mean, one of the things interesting ways of looking at a game cause it’s in the exhibition is just to look at formation, different formations. I mean, obviously as a striker, in a sense, whatever the formation your role doesn't change that much nor does the goalkeepers role, but, so what formations were you particularly, did you particularly enjoy or what formations were particularly against?
GL: To be perfectly honest, I played nearer a very rigid 442, which was fine. It was, it's very basic. Now not many teams play it now. It still emerges every now and again when teams are struggling and desperate to try and find something, two lines of four, defensively normally now. But the one time that when England changed, and Bobby Robson changed it on a couple of occasions. The first one was in ‘86. And I always played up front with a big striker, whether it be for England, whether it was Leicester or Everton and Graham Sharp and then it was the World Cup. And I was playing with Mark Hateley up front, and the first two games didn't go very well. And I honestly thought he would leave me out and bring in someone else to play alongside Mark Hateley, because there wasn't really another big striker of that ilk. But Bobby Robson changed it. He still played four and four. But he played Peter Beardsley. Now Peter Beardsley is not, he's obviously not a big striker. He's not flicking on and all that, he was actually more of a number 10. So, I played up front on my own. And I really, really liked it. And people say, well, you know, it's much better isn't having someone alongside you? Well, not if you're a goal scorer that scores, it goes in the box, because people and I hear it all the time in punditry. People saying, ‘don't get enough bodies in the box, don't get enough bodies in the box’. And I used to think exactly the opposite. I don't like many bodies in the box because the more bodies in the box the less space there is.
So as a striker that, as I talked about before you gamble on space. If you're playing up front with another striker, he’s in the box, so therefore there's a defender with him and then then they say the midfielders are in there and suddenly there's eight to ten people and there's not the space. But Beardsley came in and suddenly there was loads of space and I scored like three goals in twenty minutes or something and my life changed
TM: How many players have you encountered, as a player and as a pundit, who are in a different league of talent to anyone else?
TM: Who’s that?
GL: In my time?
GL: In my time one and there’s one more now. That's Diego Maradona and Messi. They’re on a different level to everyone else by like, by mile. You know, some people will argue about, you know, Ronaldo and this. And you can, you can make an argument about who's the best goal scorer but you cannot make any kind of argument about who's the best footballer because they do things that are impossible. And they do it three or four times every single game. I played against Diego a couple of times. And obviously the hand of God game where he did that. But the other goal, the other goal was just breath-taking. It’s the one time I felt like I should applaud, but that wouldn't have gone down, wouldn't have gone down very well.
And the pitch was so bad. You’ve no idea how bad the pitch was, you know, like sometimes when your garden’s chopped up, and suddenly you get loads of pieces, square bits of turf. And he did that goal on that cow patch. And he played a game that, there were a lot of great players in the world. And I was, I was obviously on the elite level. But to imagine that there is someone that is head and shoulders, even though is head and shoulders smaller than anyone else, he's actually head and shoulders above everyone else, is staggering. And it's so hard to comprehend, and Messi is exactly the same, 17 years of just dazzling miracle football.
TM: Okay, and how many players have you encountered in your career who you thought, okay so that's almost, well, it is pretty naturally talented, but how many players you think actually could have been the very, very best, if not quite in that, who just didn't make it?
GL: None. Because you need everything to come together to actually make it, it’s not enough just to have talent. It's, you know, it's not enough even to have the right attitude, you also got to be able to deal with the mental side of the game. And you've got to be incredibly strong and be resilient and tough. You got to work really hard. And you've got to be blessed with, with incredible talent. But I don't think people really have any understanding about actually how good Premier League players are, you know, even players that play for teams that get relegated and they get toxic abuse from the home crowd, don't realise how good they are.
TM: Is the manager sometimes over revered? What difference do they make to an individual player and to a side?
GL: It is hugely important, there's no question about that. I mean I was lucky enough to play with some really great managers. But what I've noticed about the really, really top managers is that they have a way of playing, now Klopp has a way of playing and Guardiola has a way of playing, now they play a same system, but they play in a totally different way.
The managers that are not so good, seem to shift between systems and try and work out the system from the players they’ve got rather than being patient, look at the long term and go ‘right, this is the way my teams will play’. Say Manchester United, over the last few years they’ve played with different managers, different teams, the players are clearly confused, they're baffled, but if the team plays the same way all the time, they know, you might say it might be easy to play against, but the players need to know what their role is, and what their job is within the team and also for recruitment.
With Klopp - Klopp can go ‘this is a wild play, I need someone that plays that role really well’. And it's easy, but they are the hugely important in fact that much more important than I actually thought they were when they played because I didn't like most of them
TM: One of the things that is clear from the exhibition, the evolution of the game, if you look at the technology and the design of balls and boots, in particular, that and pitch, when you're talking about the kind of chaos of the pitch in Mexico in 1986. But pitches now are with underground underfloor heating.
GL: It’s the one thing I'm envious about, you know, people talk about the money in the game, I mean, often I’m alright and laugh and say ‘I'm fine’. So, I don't really, I'm not envious of that side of things. But the playing surfaces, I mean, I just look there. Every time I look, every time I stand on the side of a pitch when I do, I pretty much just look at them and go oohhh. I would’ve loved to play on that. I mean, you ain’t got an excuse, but I mean, when I played it's like bobbling all over the place. You might get a really nice pitch in August and maybe the first two weeks of September, then it starts to rain then it gets boggy and like a mud bath.
Then you get freezing conditions, and all the mud dries and frosty things, and it bounces all over the place, and then you play sometimes in torrential bogs and then it starts to dry in in spring, add it's even worse, it's mud but it's dried mud and it's horrible, and then just at the end of the season when the pitches are starting to grow again, you stop.
So, I do genuinely envy. I just look at those and I just think God, it must be so easy now. It's not that, you know, football is better today than football was in my time. But it is, it's a better game to watch now overall, because of the conditions, the stadiums, the facilities, the football.
TM: Of course, the other thing that's changed fundamentally is the mediation of the game. I mean, football is televised, and obviously you're part of this football is now. I mean the Premier League is the global phenomenon, it's a kind of symbiotic thing, isn't it? It's a great league, but it's been mediated around the world, and it's sold around the world. How did you get into commentary?
GL: People ask when did you start thinking about going into TV and I was like, ‘it’s my mid to late 20s, when I started to be successful’. My agent was very kind of very smart. And he used to say, ‘you gotta think about after football and blah blah blah, do you wanna be a coach? Do you want to be a manager?’.
And I went ‘no I don't, I've got no interest in that’. I really like the media side. And in World Cups, I'd go and sit with the journalists and watch how they wrote their copy. I'd go with the radio people and then the TV guys, and I'd sit around the camera when they were doing interviews, because I was genuinely fascinated by it. And I just thought if I can crack it as a player that's played at the very highest level, it will give me an edge on all the others that do football, and it will give me a niche and it might give me longevity. And that’s...
TM: Why do you think football didn't do that? Was it a class thing? Or was it an education thing, that footballers had to leave school?
GL: By and large, you leave school at 16 otherwise you’re too late. So, I think that's it, so you've not had that full education, you’ve not gone, you’ve certainly not gone to university. I mean Alan Smith didn’t and dropped out of university in his first year to join Leicester, went to play with upfront from me, and obviously had a great career playing for Arsenal and England. So that, you know, there are exceptions, but, by and large, they're just you know, working class lads that only focus on football.
TM: So, do you think footballers do make better pundits than non-footballers?
GL: I mean, it's a difficult one because people always throw it at you. They always say you need you can't have an opinion on football unless you've played. Of course, you can have an opinion. But by and large, of course they do, because they can draw on their own experiences, and that is important in punditry. That's, I think you've, you've been there, you know, that position, particularly when you're talking about your own position. I mean, when I played up front, there is not a manager I played with that knew how to play my position as well as I knew it. And in fact, they taught mostly rubbish.
Venables was slightly different because he would throw things at me. He thought if you did that, and they'll tell you that's not gonna work, or then he’ll go, then he'll say something, no, but he do it three times a week and then go actually, that's, that's quite good, that might work.
But most of them just stick to the basics and then, then shout at you from the touchline when you'd give the ball away on a bumpy, muddy pitch, and hold it up and it's the one thing that - because I ain’t really got a temper but that was the one thing that did wind me up. You’re playing on a windy day and some centre-off bangs it in from 50 yards away, it's bouncing like this and you're trying to get down you've got some 6’8 centre half all over your breathing and the ball bounces off you somebody comes in and kicks you behind, and your manager says ‘hold it, hold it up, hold it up’.
I snapped at Bobby Robson, I hated it, after the game, I went ‘I'm sorry Bobby I didn't mean, I didn't mean it’, I just started tearing, in fact all of them because that was the one thing that got me going.
TM: When you're watching Leicester, the sort of fan you are of you know, you've talked about going crazy, when you go to games when you're not even you know, are you a kind of passionate fan or you go loopy?
TM: Irrational shouting, shouting at the referee?
GL: Yeah, yep, yep. Did it all, did it all in Rome. I’ve been to quite a few of the Europa League, then we moved to the Conference League. And you know, I’m there with my lads, three of my lads support Leicester. George, very difficult child, supports Man United.
Took us a long time to get that revenge. So yeah, I mean, we've sat there and when we scored, I'm jumping up like, like I'm their age, well, they’re all adults now but we're all jumping together and hugging and it's beautiful when they won the league. When they won the league, I was like, I know Leicester weren’t playing that day and thank you to your team, because obviously you came back against
GL: I wish it’d been someone else that we kind of won it against but, but I was sitting at home, watching the game and obviously Spurs needed to win otherwise Leicester won the league, and then we went 2-0 up and they came back and then Hazard did that thing.
Sublime, and I started crying and it gets me now every time I think about it, it gets me, which is mad, really because it's just, just a game of football but I was genuinely in tears. It was the biggest sporting miracle, team miracle I think of any sport ever. Because it's impossible, with that team, it's impossible. But it shows it is magical.
TM: But it's also, that it shows the Premier League you can still happen. It's not dominated just by two teams
GL: Well, it will never, it couldn’t happen, that was it. I know it demonstrates that it could happen, but it couldn't. And that's why I did that silly tweet that said, in November, that I said, I'll do the first match of the day next season in my pants, just my pants. If Leicester win the league, because I categorically knew there was zero chance even though at the top of the league at that stage, and then it got to danger and they kept winning, and then they kept winning. And then they kept winning, then it got to February, and then they played Manchester City way. And they won three one.
We thought, ‘they couldn't, could they’? The great thing was they played every Sunday. Now I work on Saturdays, obviously ‘Match of the Day’ and stuff, so I could watch the game my boys every Sunday, and it was agony. And the closer it got, the more agonising it was because it got so close. We started to think if it doesn't happen now, it will be the worst thing ever. So that was why it was so glorious when it did happen. That's why we got so emotional. And that's what football does.
TM: Are there discernibly different atmospheres in different grounds around the world. I mean, if I blindfolded you and put you in the Nou Camp, could you tell me you were there?
GL: That’s blimey. I don't know. That's a game show there isn't it?
TM: I think there is!
GL:Where am I, which ground? But no, there are different atmospheres. I mean, people think, you know when I went to when I went to play for Barcelona and there is 120,000 people in the ground, and the atmosphere must've electric, but the people that go to watch football in Barcelona, the people that can afford to, they are all what you call ‘Socios’, they're members of the club. So, they're the well-to-do, so they'll sit there.
When I first joined there, there was a full house and I walked out and this is incredible, I was like wow. But so many games there, you’d be 20 minutes in, and you're not heard anything from the crowd and they wait for you to excite them, they will never lift you.
Except in The Classico. The Classico is something completely different, the first one I've ever played, and I never tell this story, I scored a hat-trick. I scored two goals in the first five minutes, and I got, and it was 120,000 people and this game really matters to them like nothing else, nothing else. And it was like wow, it's unbelievable, and then I scored another one just after half time and I thought this is incredible. I can't believe this is happening, and the atmosphere and everything and then with about twenty minutes to go or twenty-five minutes to go, Real Madrid got a goal.
And there was such a deathly silence, there was no noise and I thought, ‘ oh it’s been disallowed, generally thought it had been disallowed’. But they don't have any away fans, so none at all back then, I mean they have a few now but it's still not many. And then they got another one and now I'm thinking ‘oh no don't do this, we got to win this game, okay, you can't take away my, you know, this is my moment ever’. Imagine losing 4-3 three, but we managed to hang on and win 3-2 and it was incredible.
TM: Which is the most intimidating ground you've ever been to and what's the most impressive architecturally you know as a spectator place to go to?
GL: The new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is fantastic, the Allianz Arena in Munich is wonderful to broadcast from, great atmosphere. I really used to struggle if you playing in front of three men and a dog you know, preseason friendlies, and it's light-hearted, you just, I really feed off the crowd. I think most, I think most top players do
TM: I’m not really sure about my statistic, but I think it was last season, when there was the lockdown season, wasn't it the first season ever in the Premier League that there were more away wins than home wins?
GL: Yeah, and it kind of proves it doesn’t it, it's the one season ever that that happened. And it just shows you that the importance of the home support and the crowd.
TM: So does abuse, does abuse get to you on the pitch?
GL: Well, when there's about 20,000 people saying ‘Gary Lineker, you’re a wanker, you’re a wanker’, you hear it.
TM: There is a kind of culture of football that is odious, and abusive, and particularly the homophobia. So we've just had the first professional footballer Jack Daniels, who was brave enough to come out. Do you think he's in for absolute shit for the next five years or do you think the game is changing?
GL: I think the game is changing, you're still going to get exceptions and you will still get silly chants and silly shouts and small sections of the crowd. But I think I've always thought, I've thought for some time that I think it's really important that someone came out in football because I think football is ready. I think we've seen it in other sports and the positivity around the story is really, really encouraging. But I think now we've had one, then there'll be another and then I think it will be what it should be, should be something that we don’t even have to talk about.
TM: Exactly. One of the other things about the way that we've taken the game as a phenomenon to look through the lens of design, is that the women's game is embedded, and we don't do that as virtue signalling, the women's game is now and you know, 98,000 people, hugely popular!
GL: That’s great because what it's bringing is it’s bringing more people into football, because when I, when I played you, you wouldn’t see that many females faces in the crowd, apart from hell women at Chelsea. But no, it's great. And it's getting better. It's improving really quickly, and there's some really good women players now, and I think it's great for the game.
TM: Before I throw you the crowd, to the audience, rather, I’ve got to ask you about the technology and the design of boots is amazing, but I love the story, which I think you should share about your own boots. The fact that it didn't matter if they'd fallen apart if they were the right boots.
GL: Lucky boots. Lucky boots are important.
TM: And even if they were hindering you, if they were lucky, that transfer didn't
GL: I’ll give you two boot stories. One was ‘85-86 season that I’d played in Everton. In those days, you probably go through two or three pairs of boots a season maybe four. Nowadays, they’ll wear a new pair of boots every game, they’re like slippers and lovely. They used to have to wear them in in training for three or four weeks, and then you'd start playing. So, I had this pair that I started playing around Christmas in my season at Everton, and I scored in pretty much every game.
I remember towards the end of the season like they needed repairing so they got repaired because they were lucky boots. Come on. And then when we were playing, we were, I think we were a point to clear of Liverpool and there were only three game left of the season. If we won all three, we’d win the league. So, we played Oxford away and we arrived there, and they used to carry the boots in like a skip, like an old bin. And they got all the boots out and mine weren't in there and I had to borrow a pair and can’t remember whose they were but there were like a size and a half too big. And we ended up losing 1-0. And then the last two games, I scored five, with my old boots back. But we lost that league.
But then we went to the World Cup. Now my boots were falling apart. So, the World Cup is coming up and I needed my lucky boots. So, I got them. They were sent to Adidas in Germany, and they totally did them up. I got them back for the World Cup. And then in the third game of the World Cup, I managed to score a hat-trick. And then one of the boots started undoing again. So, they sent an Adidas guy over to repair them for me because I was desperate. And then I scored another couple and then I ended up winning the Golden Boot. And those boots are now in the Adidas Museum in Germany.
TM: And that was ’86?
GL: So that was the World Cup. Then a year or two, a couple years, in 1988, I did a deal with a company called Quasar who wanted to pay me a lot of money and they were new boots. And let's say there were a tad heavy. And I had these new boots on, so I've gone out and the boys are laughing at me. So anyway, so I play the game, and we win 4-2 and I score four right, so my first game with this these boots on. And when I scored the fourth goal, I was running back to the halfway line, and the sole fell off, that was a true story.
TM: You mentioned the Golden Boot ‘86 World Cup. That was the great Maradona game, you know, the hand of God game and the Great game. That shirt’s just been sold for a hell of a lot of money, 7 million quid.
GL: I have the other number 10 shirt from that game
TM: Have you still got that shirt?
GL: Not sold it for a tenner.
TM: Right, well, let's get let's go to the floor.
Audience Guest 1: I wanted to ask, would you trade your Golden boot for Leicester to win the Champions League next season?
GL: Well, they’re not in it
Audience Guest 1: No, I mean they qualify this season
GL: I know I know. Right. Yes.
Audience Guest 1: You would?
GL: Yeah, would you buy it? [Laughs] Can you actually guarantee, if I give you my Golden Boot could you guarantee Leicester will win in the Champions League? I mean, I think I'll probably. Yeah, of course I would. Yeah. Yeah. I've got quite a few of them. I've just slipped them one of the ones I wanted in the Premiere League. No one would know which one was which they're actually all identical. I know which one it is but they all, I've got yeah, I've got I've got four of them.
Audience Guest 2: Who's one player and one manager from now that you would have loved to play with when you were playing?
GL: The two, Klopp and Guardiola
Audience Guest 2: And players?
GL: Players, Messi obviously because I love Messi, he’s just joyous, and Mbappé as young and upcoming coming player now because he's so rapid. And he plays on the left, so I'll be alright still in the middle. So, you got to pick a player that you know you could actually get in the team against, no good picking someone like, you know, Harry Lewandowski or Harry Kane that might take your place?
Audience Guest 3: You mentioned that obviously there are a couple of modern-day players, that are pretty special, that you would’ve liked to play with or not necessarily against. Who in your career was the best player that you ever played alongside, whether it was club level or international level?
GL: Pete Beardsley, it was just the way we gelled. I’ve played with lots of you know, Glen Hoddle as well I would say, cause Glen’s passing. I didn’t play enough with Glen, we overlapped a bit, but we didn’t overlap at time and Chris Waddle would be another one that’s unbelievable and fantastic. But as a strike partnership, Beardsley, was almost a goal a game when I played with him, and his work rate was incredible, and he just left the box to me and that was great.
Audience Guest 3: Gazza doesn’t get a look in then
GL: No, Gazza was probably the best naturally talented player that I certainly played with. But Gazza was like quite frustrating to play with as well cause Gazza played like the kid on the playground, he’d beat three players, beat four, then loose it to the fifth or he’d do something unbelievable. He was that good a player, that the only time he’d give you the ball was if he knew you had no choice but to give him it straight back, that’s a sign of how good he was. He was selfish but he won his games with absolute brilliance and he was mad as a brush.
I’ll tell you my favourite Gazza story so, he had this kind of confrontation with George Best. George Best had a go at him in the newspaper then Gazza responded like ‘that George Best he’s an old drunk’ which wasn’t bad coming from a young one. And anyway, it transpired that it culminated in George Best appearing on a chat show, he was on Jonathan Ross’s show when it was on Channel 4, way back. Jonathan quizzed him about what Gazza, he said the number he wears on his shirt is actually his IQ level, which was you know was funny, a bit unkind. But it was great for us in training the next morning like, ‘ah you’re thick’, he’s like he’s always having a go at me, he’s always having a go at me. So anyway, we kind of finish the warm-up and Gazza comes up to me and goes ‘Hey golden boy, Beckham wasn’t the first. H e always used to call me that, so anyway he’s like, golden boy’ and I’m like ‘what’, and he goes ‘what does IQ mean’?
Audience Guest 4: Hi Gary, so in your days of player, as you were saying, you were gambling front post back post, players had a lot more autonomy on the pitch. Now the era of systems,pre planned plays etc, that famous story of Guardiola putting lines on the pitch for Sterling to run across. In football, I guess, obviously the team play has come a long way, but aesthetically do you think we gain something from that, or we lose something from the chaos we once had?
GL: I don’t, I follow an account on Twitter called ‘crap90sfootball’ and I think it’s a lot better now but yeah, I know what you mean as they are trained to play in a certain position and stuff, butyou still gotta be really good, it’s all very well saying you know, it’s like when Sterling came on the other day and got the ball, he went and got to the byline and that perfect cross, you can’t do that if he’s not a really good player and I just think the levels of some of the players now are just great, really great and I’ve never been one of those to think it was better in my day. I actually think it’s better now. I mean how good would Maradona be now, and that’s why, I mean Messi edges it because of longevity of his career and the two things, and obviously looked after himself better. So, you gotta take those things into account. But what Maradona did on those pitches, getting kicked and whacked up in the air constantly, it's unbelievable.
Audience Guest 5: Good evening, a question that’s like kinda jumping on a question that was mentioned earlier on about the game as a spectacle and whether the aesthete has gone. Having watched the game, pretty much as long as you Gary, I was wondering, I sometimes get the sense that the game is the bit same-y and I wonder in your opinion, do you think the game belongs to the players today or the coaches or both?
GL: Well, it’s a sort of similar question, it has to be a bit of both, I mean it’s still about footballers. I mean you could put Guardiola into teams not done well like done well like Norwich and he would’ve made them better and I’m sure they wouldn’t have gone down. But he’s gonna turn them into a team that would challenge Liverpool for the title, its impossible. So, the game is still about the players, and it really really is. Managers make a difference, and a bad manager can ruin things but it’s about playing. It’s about how good you are on the pitch, you can’t do it with rubbish
TM: On which note, we should end. Gary it’s really brilliant you came to the Design Museum, thank you so much
GL: Thank you, thanks for being so kind
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Design Museum podcast. Football: Designing the Beautiful Game is on at the Design Museum until the 29th August 2022 – book your tickets on designmuseum.org
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This episode was produced by Hattie Moir.