Graham Taylor: Why I substituted Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker

Taylor was the manager of England in February 1992 when he called up the 21-year-old Southampton marksman Alan Shearer for his England debut against France at Wembley. And caused shock-waves by leaving out Gary Lineker to make way for him.

Today’s revelation by the much-maligned former international manager sheds new light on the so-called feud that was supposed to have simmered between him and Lineker and culminated with the nation’s top marks-man being substituted by Taylor in his last game for his country.

For the first time in seven years, Taylor discloses: “Before the Wembley game with France, Gary Lineker informed me he was going to retire from the English game at the end of the European Championships that summer. He told me about his plans to play in Japan but asked me not to say anything about it, publicly. I didn’t and haven’t. I kept faith, I kept that confidence and I took a lot of hits. I suffered criticism because I took the opportunity to look at alternatives – Shearer and Sheffield Wednesday’s David Hirst.”

“Here was me, leaving out captain I had appointed after he put me in the picture about his intentions – and I couldn’t explain my reasons.”

“A great deal was made of my withdrawal of Lineker in our last game of the tournament in Sweden. I took a lot of stick over that but I will maintain, until the day I die, that was a purely footballing decision.”

“When he told me about his planned retirement I’m sure he didn’t want to miss any international matches and expected to play in the game against the French.”

“I am also pretty sure that was where the public perception started — the feeling that I had a difficult, problematical personal situation with Gary. The truth is I never had a problem with him, but the impression has remained all this time.”

“When he told me he was finishing England that summer, it we an appropriate moment for me to look at the younger candidates and shearer was one of them.”

“In fact he scored on his debut and Lineker scored the other as a second-half sub and we beat a French side who hadn’t lost for three years.”

“But I often look back and think that’s where the speculation of a Taylor-Lineker rift began. Even though, after making him substitute, I agreed he need not attend the press conference.”

“Perhaps there would have been a different reaction to my substituting him in Sweden if everyone had known. Then, again, perhaps not!”

By unknown newspaper.