Alan Hansen finally hangs up his Match of the Day boots
Former Liverpool defender who's been on the show from the start says he'll retire at end of season
WILL English football be able to cope with the departure of another dour Scot? Having lost Alex Ferguson last season when he stepped down as Manchester United manager, the game is now bracing itself for the retirement of Alan Hansen.
In the past two decades the former Liverpool and Scotland defender has become synonymous with the BBC's Match of the Day, his passionate analysis and acerbic put-downs a reassuring sight for English football fans.
But Hansen has confirmed to the Daily Telegraph, for whom he writes a regular column, that he is retiring at the end of this season. "I will have been there for 22 years and will be 59, so it's the right time for me," explained Hansen, whose last task will be to run a critical eye over the 2014 World Cup.
Hansen hasn't always got it right in his role as a football pundit – his most famous faux-pas was when he warned Manchester United's young side at the start of the 1995-96 season: "You can't win anything with kids". United went on to win the League and Cup double.
But for the most part Hansen's intelligent insight into the game he adorned for 18 years as an imposing central back have been welcomed by fans. He joined the BBC in 1992, the same year the English Premier League was launched, and Match of the Day remains the most watched football programme in Britain, pulling in between 4m and 4.5m viewers each show.
Despite its ratings, however, Match of the Day has its fair share of critics, who accuse it of being tired and old-fashioned in comparison to Sky Sports. "The viewing figures over the last five years have been absolutely sensational but nobody seems to want to know about that," Hansen said.
"Match of the Day is a totally different programme to the live football broadcasts and the real strength of it – and also its biggest weakness – is that every second is accounted for before you start.
"The first game, you get three-and-a-half minutes to analyse it, the second game you may get two minutes, but afterwards you get 30 seconds down to ten, so after that it is all sound-bites. If you are asking for insight in ten seconds, then you have to be a better man than me!"
Hansen said he considers himself lucky to have worked with two of the best sports presenters around in Des Lynam and Gary Lineker, rating the former as the best in the business.
"He [Lynam] was just an unbelievable presenter," said Hansen. "In the early days of Match of the Day, I don't think I would have been working for 22 years had I gone on with another presenter because he was that good. I could say virtually anything to him and he would come back with a line."
As for England's current crop of pundits, Hansen singled out Sky Sport's Gary Neville as the man most likely to succeed him as the nation's favourite armchair analyst. "Gary has done a great job at Sky," Hansen said. "In this industry, when you are young, fresh and just out of the game, you are able to offer something different… Gary has come in and done incredibly well." ·