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Spurs’ Hall of Fame. Chapter four: Gary Lineker, the sharpshooter!

Written by Viorel Mesca

One of football’s gentlemen, Gary Lineker is proud to have never received a yellow card in all his professional career. Regarded as one of the all-time best English strikers and inducted into the English Football Hall of Hame in 2003, Lineker remains England’s top scorer in the Fifa World Cup finals, with 10 goals. Having scored 6 goals in 5 matches in the 1986 World Cup, Lineker won the Golden Boot making him the only English player to have done so. Lineker is also the only player to have won the English golden boot: Leicester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.

Lineker’s career began at Filbert Street in 1977 after leaving school in order to join Leicester City football club. Often referred to as “Leicester’s favourite son”, the striker helped the club to win promotion to the First Division in 1980, despite early struggles to find his place in the team, due to being deployed on the wing. In the 1984-1985 season, Lineker became the First Divison’s joint top goalscorer, at tie with Chelsea’s Kerry Dixon.

He joined League champions Everton in 1985 for £800,000. He was again the First Division’s leading goal scorer, this time with 30 goals, and helped Everton finish second in the league, losing the title to city rivals Liverpool. Everton also reached the FA Cup final for the third year in a row, losing 3-1 to rivals Liverpool, despite Lineker’s opener.

Regarding his stint with Everton, Lineker recalls:

I was only on Merseyside a short time, nine or 10 months in total really, but it was still a happy time personally, while professionally it was one of the most successful periods of my career. I still have an affinity towards Everton.”

His six goals at the 1986 World Cup earned him not only the Golden Boot but also a move to Barcelona for £2,200,000. he did not disappoint Barcelona’s fans, scoring 21 goals in 41 games during his first season, including a hat-trick in a 3–2 win over arch rivals Real Madrid. Barcelona went on to win the Copa del Rey in 1988 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989. Cruyff’s decision to play Lineker on the right of the midfield was awful, as the marksman eventually lost his place in the first XI.

Despite being approached by Alex Ferguson to join Manchester United, Lineker signed with Tottenham Hotspur in July 1989, scoring 67 goals in 105 league games (80 goals in all competitions) over three seasons and helping Spurs win the FA Cup in 1991. Regarding the FA Cup succes, Lineker confessed to the BBC:

“Winning the FA Cup in 1991 was undoubtedly the highlight of my playing career.

It might surprise you to hear that, but it was better than getting to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and better than winning the 1989 Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona.

Every kid dreams of playing in the FA Cup final. They don’t dream about playing in a Champions League final.

I was desperate to win the FA Cup with Tottenham in 1991. I was coming to the end of my career and knew it could be my last chance to lift the FA Cup.

I’d played in one final, in 1986 for Everton against Liverpool, and had lost 3-1.

The FA Cup final is a fantastic occasion, but it’s horrible when you lose.

I’d played well in 1986 and scored, but I still felt awful when we lost.

Your first FA Cup final can pass you by a bit. The occasion takes over.

So I made sure I savoured the 1991 showpiece against Nottingham Forest.”

He finished as top scorer in the First Division in the 1989–90 season, scoring 24 goals and top-division’s second-highest goalscorer in 1991–92 with 28 goals from 35 games. During the 1990 World Cup, he scored four goals, helping England reach the semi-finals of the competition. He retired from international football with 80 caps and 48 goals, one fewer goal than Bobby Charlton‘s England record.

After playing his final game for Spurs on 2 May 1992,  Lineker moved to Japan where he signed a contract with Nagoya Grampus Eight, scoring 9 goals in 23 appearances over two seasons before announcing his retirement in the autumn of 1994. Lineker will always be remembered as a fantastic sharpshooter, perhaps the best English striker in football history and will also be remberred for his famous saying:

“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win”.

Dear readers, share your thoughts about Lineker! Is he the best English striker of all time?

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