■ The footballer turned presenter, 58, on his new book, forgetting goals and podcasting with Danny Baker
How did your podcast, Behind Closed Doors, come about?
My son, Harry, and Tony, my business partner, kept saying I should do a podcast because they’re doing really well. So I started listening to a few and thought, what would I do? I didn’t want to talk about the weekend’s football, slagging off managers, because there are loads of those and it’s boring. I wanted to do it with someone who’s linked with football like Danny Baker, who’s quirky and different. I messaged him on Twitter but he didn’t reply for five days because he doesn’t have a mobile phone! Then we got together and it worked from the start. We do about 45 minutes — half a game is all I can do nowadays!
What do you chat about?
We reminisce and tell stories of our lives. I don’t have the clearest memory of my childhood and some goals I have zero memory of scoring so I was slightly worried I’d run out of stories after two episodes. But it’s surprised me how many things are triggered from talking. And it’s easy because we record them at home in my kitchen. The team comes round and I cook for everyone. I think we’ve had a million subscribers since it started and folk enjoy it.
What’s your new book of the same name about?
It seemed like a natural progression from the podcast — I’ve never done an autobiography so this might be a precursor to one if I ever get around to writing it!
There are some fun stories about Gazza in there…
We all have our Gazza stories. He was great fun to be around. We all know he’s had his issues but back in the day, boy, he could play and was just nuts! But funny nuts — like you’re crying laughing.
You talk about your TV career after football. Do you ever wonder what you’d be doing if you’d not made a success of it?
No, but life gets tough for footballers after football. I’m one of the lucky ones. If you finish in your early 30s the fame gradually dissipates, the money stops, the self-esteem can go down. The divorce rate for players aged 35 to 40 is very high because the player might be depressed, so half the money goes, and then they might invest the rest in a business that fails. Some turn to drink or drugs, so it’s hard.
Live TV must give you that adrenaline rush too…
Exactly, and we still have that little team camaraderie on Match Of The Day and silly men banter nonsense. But the one thing that’s irreplaceable is the feeling of scoring a big goal. Sometimes, watching magical sporting moments such as Leicester winning the league or Tiger Woods winning the Masters feels great — but it’s never the same.
Will you ever have a regular woman on Match Of The Day?
Alex Scott, who I worked with during the World Cup, has been a guest so it’s definitely going that way. The women’s game is growing amazingly in popularity, which is great.
You have 7.38million Twitter followers…
It’s a bit huge. It was my son, George, who got me into it. I was only going to go on for a day but then I thought, I can’t come off now! Twitter’s a bit like my job: you might try and make it amusing — which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t — or you might be serious or political and get yourself embroiled in all sorts of nastiness. But I love it.
You have quite a spat going on with Piers Morgan…
That’s just banter. We get on fine. He can be irritating on social media but he’s not nearly as irritating when you go out with him. I love it when he gets a bit agitated and abusive because he feels he’s losing — then I know I’ve got him!
Did you ever think you’d get so politically opinionated?
If you’d said to me ten years ago you’ll be some kind of semi-political voice, I would have said, not a chance, I’m not that stupid — but I have been! My first political gesture was against Fifa, then I had a degree of empathy towards refugees and I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t. Then I started to research the Remain stance and it just didn’t seem like a good idea to leave.
What else can we expect from you this year?
I followed in the footsteps of my grandfather during World War II for a documentary called My Grandad’s Untold War, telling the story of the battles of Salerno and Monte Cassino. The Allies took Rome before Normandy and D-Day, so it was usurped and not really told about — in fact, they were called the D-Day Dodgers, which was brutally hard. It was very evocative so I got a bit teary on occasions. Then loads of Match Of The Day, the Champions League for BT and lots more podcasts.
What will you do if Leicester win the Premier League again?
I’ll shave my head!
■ Lineker and Baker’s book, Behind Closed Doors, is out now