Alan Hansen: Sad truth behind Match of the Day exit as Gary Lineker pays tribute

Alan Hansen ended his broadcasting career at the very top, but the Liverpool legend would later admit "crippling" nerves affected him throughout his years as a Match of the Day mainstay.

Tributes and well-wishes have been pouring in for Hansen, 69, who is seriously ill in hospital. His former club Liverpool sent out a message on June 13, the ex-defender's birthday, in which they said they were "thinking of him".

Ex-colleague and friend Graeme Souness spoke about Hansen on ITV during the broadcaster's coverage of Germany v Scotland on Friday. He later asked for prayers for Hansen, who is said to be in the "fight of his life".

Hansen's last major tournament with the BBC was the 2014 World Cup, with the former centre-back opting against signing on with the broadcaster beyond that point. A number of his colleagues from that time are still going - including presenter Lineker, who paid an emotional tribute during the coverage of Italy vs Albania on Saturday.

"It's been a tough week for everyone associated with Match of the Day," Lineker said. "The news that Alan Hansen was seriously ill in hospital shocked us all."

Pundit Alan Shearer was another to work with Hansen, and the former England and Newcastle striker was visibly emotional while paying his own tribute. "We're all great friends with Al. We know his character, we know he's a fighter and we know how tough he is," he said.

"We're thinking of you big man, we're with you and we're hoping and we're praying for you." Lineker continued during the live broadcast. "We certainly are. Everyone at Match of the Day sends love and thoughts to Janet, Lucy and Adam and the grandchildren.

"To use an analogy from Alan's favourite pastime golf... You might be three down with four to play, but if anyone can come back from it, it's Alan. I've never known a more competitive person in my life. We're all with you big Al."

Share your messages of support for Alan Hansen in the comments section

alan hansen: sad truth behind match of the day exit as gary lineker pays tribute

Gary Lineker speaking in 2024

Speaking about his 2014 BBC departure, Hansen was happy to be bowing out at the pinnacle of the game. "The guys at the BBC know me and I said, 'Look, this is categorical," he said.

"I'm leaving and nothing will make me change my mind'. I am contracted to do the World Cup and I will do that as it will be a good way to go out, but I have had a great run. I've been in football for 41 years and I'm going out right at the top, just as I did at Liverpool."

Later, though, he admitted there was more to his time in front of the camera than it appeared. "There was no training, it was sink or swim," he admitted, reflecting on the start of his broadcasting career. "I was lucky to work with a master, Des Lynam."

alan hansen: sad truth behind match of the day exit as gary lineker pays tribute

Alan Hansen on Match of the Day

Continuing, Hansen said: "After 22 years I kept telling myself I wouldn't get so nervous, but it got worse. That was one of the reasons I left. I was getting more nervous and I'd say: 'What are you doing? ' The BBC were terrific, I loved the people and Match of the Day but I didn't enjoy the nerves."

"When I played I didn't like pundits. When I was a pundit I didn't like the other pundits because I was scared they might be better than me. Honestly, I thought they were all better than me. It was my insecurity."

Lineker would corroborate those comments, saying of Hansen: "He was incredibly nervous, which is why he quit. He got so nervous. He used to shuffle his feet on the floor."

alan hansen: sad truth behind match of the day exit as gary lineker pays tribute

Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool

Despite those nerves, Hansen proved himself to be a popular pundit throughout his broadcasting career. His criticism of defending became a staple on Match of the Day, while his claim about Manchester United's Class of 92 will live long in the memory.

After an opening weekend defeat for United in 1995, Hansen insisted they would "win nothing with kids". While Red Devils manager Alex Ferguson was vindicated by a double that season and treble in 1999, Hansen stuck to his guns.

He remained a popular pundit throughout his career, as well as a good friend to the likes of Lineker, Souness and more. The messages of support over the last few days and weeks speak to that.

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