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Gary Lineker & His Delightful Japan Trip in ’92

Gary Lineker Japan Nagoya Grampus Eight

Apparently, a lot of the football media gave the poor lad a bit of stick about this move, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Being as open and honest and I can, you’re going to hear me speak about Gary Lineker a lot more in the time to come for Ultra United.

Partly because of my total love and admiration for him as a football personality, and for what the man was able to do with a ball at his feet and a bandage around his arm (if you know, you know!)

Since hanging up his boots in 1994, Gary Lineker’s distinguished club and international footballing career has played a role in the background of what’s turned into a fruitful career in punditry.

In fact, it was on one of his latest products, a Match of the Day (‘MOTD’) ‘Top Ten’ segment, where he brought up some of the decisions he made in the twilight of his career. Which took him to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ with Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1992.

Pretty normal by today’s standards but incredibly novel back then, for sure!

Finishing off his final game with Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 1991/92 season, it’s reported that Gary Lineker had already signalled his intention to join Nagoya Grampus Eight in the winter of that season.

And as one of the founding members of the new ‘J League’ at the time, it was presumed that Lineker’s decision to move there was something more of a financial decision than it was one for the footballing purists to chew over.

Having looked at it objectively, I can see arguments for either side.

In that mentioned segment for Match of the Day, Lineker himself confesses to being handed quite a handsome package to relocate to Japan. But why this ought to attract any sort of negative attention, I can’t really make sense of it. Especially when this career format is something that neither began nor has ended with our favourite Walker’s Crisps representative.

Before him, even some of the greatest players this game has ever seen have been unable to escape the charm / financial allure of a late holiday season or two. Pelé, Cruyff and George Best were some of the inaugural ‘oh, I know them’ faces to be introduced to the North American Soccer League in the ’70s.

Needless to say, this is a theme which has carried over into the modern game – particularly with English talent. With Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard all ‘guilty’ of moving to America for (presumably) similar reasons.

I say this in brackets, as I can’t assume that this was all they wanted to move for, but they weren’t as open as (let’s say) David Beckham, who’s grown a bit of a dynasty over there since joining.

So, what I’m trying to say is, anybody who gave Gary Lineker any lip over his Japanese choice, just have a day off, will ya! Have a Snickers and calm down – or something to that effect!

At 32, it’s arguable that Gary Lineker ‘could’ve done a little more’ at a higher level if he ‘really wanted to’.

But after his fantastic spell with Leicester and Everton, which earned him some national notoriety either side of a move to Barcelona in the late ’80s, the man achieved far more than what could’ve been topped up in his final years.

If anything, Nagoya Grampus Eight was a really nice little end for him.

He spent the best part of two years there, with his typical poacher’s instinct aiding with just under a goal involvement every other game for the East-Asian outfit.

Nevertheless, his simply being in Japan must have helped in bringing some always-welcome attention to how football was adopted and played in that part of the world.

And though there’s little to suggest that their eventual stars came through with some kind of embryonic influence that seeing Gary Lineker on their TV’s had, it’s still a nice thought to have.

Injuries prevented him getting any further there, but with the change in culture, exposure to a different way of the game and improvement in profile for the Lineker name, it’s looking like an ever-smaller price to pay for the experiences which will always live with him.

Did you enjoy this article about Gary Lineker? Well, maybe you’ll enjoy this one we have about another cult hero. One who’s loved by pretty much every Newcastle fan in the world!

Do you remember anything personally about Gary Lineker’s time at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan? If so, let us know in the comments and share this post if you liked it!

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