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Gary Lineker talks crisps, Rooney and “Sh*t on pitch”

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Alex Christian
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Crisp don Gary Lineker reminisces about the time Diego Maradona nearly fell off a balcony

First things first, Gary. What’s your favourite niche crisp flavour?

It has to be Walkers cheese toastie and Worcester sauce. It’s a winner.

Who do you want Leicester to play in the Champions League knockout stages?

Barcelona. Obviously it’s a club I’ve played for; it’s a dream tie. Preferably in the semi-finals.

What’s it like having everyone reply “Sh*t on pitch” to your tweets for five years?

I suppose when you have that many followers [5.3 million] you’re going to get a few people who think making the same joke a thousand times is really funny. Obviously, they’re not that bright. Does it matter? Not really [laughs].

How was it presenting Match Of The Day in only a pair of shorts?

Very bizarre. I’m very comfortable presenting the show, I’ve done it for so long now. But it did feel cringeworthy. I was relieved when I could get my clothes back on. I had to do it though, after promising it. It was worth it, of course.

Knowing you had three months to prepare for it, did you get monster ripped in the gym?

I work out regularly anyway so I didn’t up my regime really. I was in LA a couple of weeks before, though, so I got a nice tan and cut out some carbs.

If you were at the FA, what would you change about the England set-up?

Unless you’re on the inside it’s hard to know what’s going on. If I were the manager – not that that’d ever appeal to me at all – I’d think it’s a great opportunity to just go with players who’ve done well at under-19 and under-21 levels. It’s almost impossible not to qualify for a tournament now anyway, there are so many weak countries in groups. So you may as well just go for it. You could sell that to the nation, too: “We’re not going with the tried and failed, we’re going to do something different with new talent.”

Where do you stand on dropping Wayne Rooney?

There’s no question Wayne’s powers have waned – that wasn’t meant to be a pun. When you’re around 30 years old that’s what happens, you don’t move as well. I’m not a believer in players filling roles that aren’t their own – it’s tough enough playing in your own position. He’s been brilliant for England, but he’s coming to the end. It’s not always easy for a player to recognise that themselves. I realised at 31 that I wasn’t as quick as I was, so I retired from international football. There’s no right or wrong way, though.

You’ve made the occasional documentary, including one on Diego Maradona. What’s he like?

As mad as a brush. I had three days with him in Buenos Aires and he was completely bonkers. I remember watching a Boca Juniors game with him in his own little box there. He was screaming at the players so much his daughter had to physically restrain him so he wouldn’t fall over the edge. His life is quite something.

Who writes your on-screen puns?

I write all my scripts. Each link has to be short, concise and a bit of fun. It might be why I enjoy Twitter – you have to be succinct and punchy. It’s similar. Some tweets work more than others, though.

What’s the deal with your Piers Morgan Twitter feud?

It’s light-hearted, but at the same time he can be very annoying. If he gets a good smack occasionally, it’s usually merited. I think he’s deliberately controversial and provocative to get more followers. I’m pretty sure of it. He can’t actually believe some of the stuff he comes out with.

What’s the secret to a 15-year playing career without picking up a yellow card?

I don’t think anyone could do it now. These days you can get one for anything. But I just don’t have much of a temper. And I obviously didn’t tackle anyone.

Were you aware of the record? Did you almost go out of your way to avoid a booking in your final few games?

No, I was actually tempted to punch the referee in my last game [laughs]. Not quite my style. The closest I came was at Barcelona, the ref gave such a bad decision that I started laughing at him. He motioned taking a card out of his pocket and I asked him, “Are you actually booking me for laughing?” He changed his mind.

Walkers limited-edition sandwich-flavoured crisps are on sale until the end of October

(Image: EVEVINE)