Match of the Day: Gary Lineker on how programme has changed over 25 years

Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen
Gary Lineker was about to move to Japan when he appeared as a guest on the first Match of the Day of the Premier League era in 1992

On Tuesday it is 25 years since the start of the Premier League. To mark the occasion, there will be two special Rewinds on the BBC website and the Red Button (UK only).

At 14:55 BST watch the full match between Sheffield United and Manchester United - plus there will be a live text commentary with clips of numerous goals from the opening afternoon.

And at 22:00 BST on the Red Button and website you can relive the first Match of the Day of the Premier League era, with presenter Des Lynam joined by guests Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker.

When the Premier League began, it was the launch of something new and none of us knew at the time it was going to be as big as it has become.

I was not a regular pundit on Match of the Day until 1994, but I did that first Premier League show in 1992 as a one-off.

I was still a player but it was during a gap I had after leaving Tottenham to join Japanese side Grampus Eight because the J-League did not start until September.

Even then, I always knew I wanted to present and I never really saw myself as a pundit because, in terms of analysis, I only really knew about strikers - and that was what I talked about.

On that first show, I gave my opinion on a certain Alan Shearer, who had scored twice on his Blackburn debut.

What has changed? The end of the goals round-up...

As you will see, Match of the Day in 1992 was a very different programme to the one it is now - we only showed highlights of one or two matches, and just the goals from the rest.

I got the presenter's job when Des Lynam left for ITV in 1999 and, when the BBC got the rights back in 2004, I thought it would make a real difference if we could show highlights of all the games.

It really worked and what happened then was people stopped complaining about their teams never being one of the main match edits - and started complaining about where they were in the running order.

Subsequently, that has become a bit of a battle, but most people agree with it most of the time - unless it is their team that are not on early enough.

In all the years of criticism on social media about the running order, I have never had anyone complaining about the treatment of a team different to the one that they support - and you get it about all of them!

The discussion about it on Twitter has actually become quite fun in many ways, though. It is just part of the show now and another way it has evolved.

Getting the balance right

Des Lynam presenting Match of the Day in 1992
Lineker took over as Match of the Day host from Des Lynam, who presented the programme from 1988 to 1999

What has not changed since 1992 is what makes the show so special: the mix of audience that we get on a Saturday night.

We have to be very mindful of that. Sometimes the absolute football anoraks will want more analysis but the people that just get their little football fix from Match of the Day want the action - so you have got to strike a balance somewhere in the middle.

Over the years, I think we have found the balance that placates most people, which ultimately is what you want. The audience figures reflect the fact we have got it about right.

Almost five million people watched the first Match of the Day of the season on Saturday night, which is an astoundingly high figure, despite it starting later than scheduled.

It is clearly still very much part of the staple diet of football fans in this country, despite how much the Premier League has changed in the past 25 years, along with the way people watch their football.

Looking forward - an important role to play

In many ways Match of the Day is remarkable. It bucks the trends for all other sports shows because, these days, where everyone has the information at their fingertips, highlights shows generally do not really work.

For some reason, even in this modern era, Match of the Day still does.

It is a good watch and don't forget it is an important aspect of the Premier League that it has something on terrestrial television.

Half the country do not have Sky or BT so Match of the Day gives them their weekly fix of football. I think it is important for the Premier League that everyone can watch it - and I think they understand that too.

Gary Lineker was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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