Although it isn’t as popular as some of its wealthier counterparts like Manchester United’s, West Ham’s or even Southampton’s youth academy, Leicester City has contributed its fair share of stalwarts to English football. Some of them include Peter Shilton, David Nish, Steve Whitworth, Emile Heskey, as well as the controversial but undoubtedly successful Don Revie. Of all these perhaps the most acclaimed product of their academy is Gary Lineker. Here’s a lowdown on his career:
1960 The year in which England was under the leadership of the Conservative Harold ‘Supermac’ Macmillan who rose as a protégé of Winston Churchill, in the East Midlands city of Leicester, Gary Winston Lineker was born in a family of green grocers and was given the middle name of the Greatest Briton of the 20th Century with whom he shared his birthday – 30th November.
1976 He started attending his local club Leicester City’s youth academy and was part of their youth setup till 1978.
1978 Lineker got promoted to the first team in 1978 and began scoring prolifically against all comers during the early 1980s.
1980 At a time when the Foxes were yo-yoing between the old Division 1 and Division 2, Lineker’s goals helped the club gain promotion twice. His career began flourishing in the 1981-82 season when he forged a prolific strike partnership with Alan Smith and ended that season with a remarkable haul of 19 goals in all competitions. The following season he finished as the second division top goal scorer to earn promotion for his childhood club.
1983 The step up didn’t halt Lineker’s prolific goal scoring and at the end of the season he finished only behind Liverpool’s Ian Rush on the goal scoring charts. The following season he went one better and ended up being the league’s joint top scorer with 24 goals to his tally.
His scoring tally also meant that the modest Leicester City wouldn’t be able to stave off the advances of bigger teams and ultimately will be forced to sell him.
1984 also saw him make his full England debut.
1985 In the close season Lineker finally made the much anticipated move from Filbert Street to Goodison Park to join the English champions for a sum of £800,000. Not taking very long to settle in the new surroundings the Leicesterian scored a remarkable 40 goals in 57 appearances, 30 of which came in the league. Those were enough to see him finish the league’s top scorer.
The season saw him score an astonishing three hat tricks, one each against Birmingham City, Manchester City, and Southampton. But all his heroics couldn’t deliver Everton their second title in a row as they finished behind Liverpool by just two points.
Even after the near miss, Lineker has consistently stated since retiring from football that this Everton team was the best club side he ever played for.
The year saw him score his first goal for the national team. He scored five more by the year end.
1986 Gary Lineker became the central striker of the English team at the World Cup, a role he carried to perfection scoring six goals in the tournament which were enough to secure him the Golden Boot as the competition’s top scorer.
Quite remarkably he scored all of England’s World Cup goals bar one – scored by Peter Beardsley!
He scored a hat trick in the league match against Poland and got England’s only goal against Maradona’s Argentina in their quarter final exit.
Lineker’s World Cup exploits didn’t go unnoticed as the Spanish giants Barcelona signed him for £2,800,000. He won over the Camp Nou faithful with a hat trick against their fierce rivals, Real Madrid. He ended the season with 21 goals in 41 appearances.
1989 His deployment on the right by the new manager, Yohan Cryuff, meant that the Englishman couldn’t maintain his goal scoring and moved on.
Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him but Lineker signed for Tottenham Hotspur in July 1989.
His first year in North London saw him top the league scoring charts for the third time in his career.
1991 It turned out to be a fruitful year for Lineker as he won his first piece of silverware, the FA Cup, after Spurs defeated Nottingham Forest 2-1.
1992 He moved to Japan and spent two injury plagued years at Nagoya Grampus Eight before hanging his illustrious boots.
He finished his international career with 48 goals in 80 appearances just one shy of the all time leader, Sir Bobby Charlton.
Post retirement, Lineker has enjoyed a very successful media career, primarily as BBC’s anchorman for football coverage, including the highly rated football television program Match of the Day.
In 2003, Lineker was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
In a textbook case of ‘giving back’ he led a group that put in big bucks in Leicester, saving it from bankruptcy, and later he was appointed the honorary vice-president.