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Gary Lineker back on the BBC doing what he does best: sticking to football

Gary Lineker is back doing what he does best: sticking to the football – BBC/News_scans

He’s back. Although he appeared not to have brought his voice with him. As Gary Lineker returned to his day job presenting Match of the Day’s coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley, the BBC’s bad boy front man sounded as if he had spent his fortnight off eschewing Twitter and instead grabbing a megaphone and bellowing out his opinions directly to the world.

Hoarse, croaking, he came back without an onscreen word about his power struggles with the BBC hierarchy. Perhaps sensing his larynx were not up to any lengthy re-tread, he left it at the program’s opening instead to his colleague and business associate Alan Shearer to reflect on what had happened in this past fortnight of BBC self-flagellation.

“I just wanted to say how upset we were at all the audiences missing out last weekend,” Shearer said of the stripped back, commentary-and-pundit free highlights that replaced the usual broadcast during Lineker’s enforced absence. “It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned. Through no fault of their own, some great people in TV and radio were put in an impossible situation. That wasn’t fair. It’s good to get back to some sort of reality and be talking about football again.”

Lineker restricted himself merely to adding: “I echo those sentiments.”

Then it was back to talking about football. And what talk.

“Both sides desperately want to get to the semi-final,” Shearer suggested of the upcoming match, demonstrating the kind of unbeatable insight we had all missed last weekend.

Gary Lineker presenting BBC's FA Cup coverage of Man City vs Burnley - Gary Lineker returns doing what he does best: sticking to the football - BBC

Gary Lineker presenting BBC’s FA Cup coverage of Man City vs Burnley – Gary Lineker returns doing what he does best: sticking to the football – BBC

Mind, Shearer was right about it being an impossible situation. It was certainly not the BBC hierarchy’s finest tactical hour. Although oddly they did not seem to think he was being political when he tweeted without complaint “Bin Corbyn” about the ex-Labour leader four years ago, the corporation’s big wigs had suspended Lineker for breaching their social media rules when he had complained about the government’s refugee policy. Social media rules, incidentally, which may or may not exist. Nobody seemed entirely sure.

The cack-handedness of their punishment had quickly blown up in their faces and it was no surprise that Lineker had returned, without apparently being required to make any changes to his Twitter output. Because while it was just about plausible to run commentary and punditry-free highlights as a one-off last weekend – a move which seemed to please no one but half a dozen Tory MPs and newspaper columnists – that was not possible this weekend with two live FA Cup games to broadcast this weekend.

With all of Lineker’s colleagues putting aside careerist opportunism to stand in solidarity with him, the BBC management had to have someone present the live broadcast to ensure they were not in breach of their contractual obligations. And they might as well go back to the best. Because, whatever his noisy politicising, only the ignorant would suggest Lineker is not that. Comfortable, unflappable, avuncular, despite his week in the headlines, he was immediately doing what he does so well.

“He’s so enthusiastic for those pre-match interviews, isn’t he?” he said sarcastically, after Kelly Somers had struggled to get a word out of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola ahead of the game. It was the kind of irreverence that marks him out. And it was good to have him back, talking about what he knows so well. As he suggested in a selfie posted on his favorite medium Twitter just before the game, “ah the joys of being allowed to stick to football”.

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