Gary Lineker: And That’s Your Professional Opinion, Is It?

Future Prime Minister? Could happen. Image: REUTERS/Toby Melville.

Have experienced the full horror of playing for the England football team, Gary Lineker really should have learned to recognise a pointless exercise when he sees one.

Of course, Lineker played at a time when football wasn’t in the public domain and therefore not subject to the opinions of people for whom football is just another entertainment format. As the figurehead of the BBC’s Euro 2012 coverage recently, one would imagine he’d at least be conversant with reality.

It may not have been earth shattering for all of us, but Gary was so incensed by Stuart Pearce’s omission of David Beckham from the GB Olympic football team that he issued a  tweet of condemnation. This prompted a Twitter backlash against the decision, which then resulted in #pickbecks trending and general agreement that Pearce is a mean git.

The basis for Lineker’s argument was that Beckham had “‘given so much” to the Olympic bid that he deserved to be picked as one of three over-23 players in the squad. Whether deliberate or not, his actions rather plays to the British tendency to support the underdog, and somehow, despite a net worth of £160million and large-modelling-contract good looks, Beckham still qualifies as an underdog.

He’s not. He’s a footballer who has played for top flight clubs in England, Spain and Italy. He has represented his country more than 100 times. Whatever you think of his skills, he is a fierce competitor. Of course he wants to play. But no matter how hang dog an expression he can arrange his beautiful features into, he doesn’t want to be picked to play for his country through pity.

As a former competitor at the highest level himself, shouldn’ t Lineker know that? He seemed to in April, when he told BBC Radio 5Live “If you are going to pick the best three over-age players, then you would say no [to Beckham].”

Whatever his reasons for changing his mind, the u-turn smacks a little of preempting the inevitable furor over the decision and aligning himself with popular opinion. Those who don’t follow football but do follow Beckham’s off-pitch adventures in the tabloids are bound to feel like he should be in the team. Many of those who follow football snort at the idea of  a 37-year-old, who hasn’t played at the top-level consistently since 2009, turning out for a team who presumably hope to win something in an competitive international tournament.

Wayne Rooney was arguably picked to lead England’s line in Euro 2012 on the basis of past performances. That went really well, didn’t it?

If we can’t rely on the supposed ‘experts’ to make decisions without dragging emotion into the equation, we are never going to win anything as a country. We can all agree on that, surely?

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