Just a few months ago, footballer-turned-broadcaster Gary Lineker was filling front pages for all the wrong reasons.
The presenter became embroiled in a row over BBC impartiality following comments made on Twitter over the government’s migration policy. Briefly suspended from his flagship show Match of the Day, he was returned to post after discussions with Director-General Tim Davie.
Not one to keep a low profile, it has not held the 62-year-old back. He continues to be vocal about matters like climate change and refugee issues on Twitter. And most interestingly, he continues to pursue interests beyond the BBC.
Lineker is now launching a new football podcast, The Rest is Football, alongside BBC Sport colleagues Micah Richards and Alan Shearer.
The podcast will join the fold of his company Goalhanger, which already produces The Rest is Politics and The Rest is History.
Reaching levels of success similar to those two forebears will be a tough challenge, but with Richards and Shearer, Lineker assembles a strong and competitive squad.
Natural chemistry is clearly in abundance between the three
The trio already and will continue to co-host Match of the Day: Top 10, a TV and audio simulcast which compiles Top 10 football-related lists.
Natural chemistry is clearly in abundance between the three, and really Top 10 just feels like MOTD if you left the mics on, with a proper mates in the pub feel to it.
Lineker has suggested that the Beeb are not sweating too much about this new offshoot, but it certainly seems strange that they’d be happy to lose three members of their top talent twice a week to an external outfit (though given Lineker’s prior role as a BT Sport anchor, and Richards’s and Lineker’s other punditry commitments, perhaps it won’t cause undue concern).
It is however a sign of a relationship between Lineker and the BBC which is under stress. Where this new product seeks to go, and how different a direction this provides, will be interesting to see.
On first listen, it seems it won’t knock down any trees. A bit like Sky’s The Overlap, which features Gary Neville often alongside fellow pros and pundits Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane, it is packed with stories as well as some footballing comment.
What has given the trio the itch to pursue this new podcast is not immediately apparent. Granted, MOTD is notoriously tight on time and restricted really only to analysis of featured matches, but this is nothing too out there.
Like most programmes, this one will take time to find its feet
Were Lineker, Richards and Shearer so dissatisfied by their current lot that they have wriggled away from the mothership to talk about…this? The opening episode was little more than a bit of a season preview, no different to what you can see on most other outlets. Their analysis was as strong and insightful as always. But at first count this new show does not seem to be doing much else.
I suspect that like most programmes this one will take time to find its feet. Once the curtains come up and the season begins, strange things do begin to happen. And the trio will be well placed to talk about it all.
Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining. There were interesting discussions about Harry Kane’s potential move to Bayern Munich, the sort of which can only ever come from those who have lived it. But in Lineker’s words, this one is very much about ‘sticking to football’.
Given Lineker’s keen interest in politics, it will be interesting to see if this does find a place in the new format. The first episode suggests not. When Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia came up, its ethical implications were discussed only cursorily.
Perhaps he will leave the heavier stuff to his Goalhanger colleagues Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart, who already do a pretty good job of it on The Rest is Politics.
Time will tell, but for now I don’t think BBC executives need to have this one on their alert watch. Football fans would however be wise to have it on theirs.