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Interview with Lee Ridley


How are the book signing sessions going?

Very well. Preston is the twentieth signing which has been long and arduous but there's been a lot of people. I've been all over. I've been to London three times, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast. The busiest was definitely Belfast. I went on a programme on the television called the Kelly Show. I'd never heard of it before but it's really big in Belfast and Dublin with a very nice presenter. He gave the book a big plug and, on Saturday in Belfast, I was signing books for about three hours which was a long time. I hope I'm not signing books for three hours today, that's for sure.

Do you enjoy working as a pundit for the BBC?

Yes. Match of the Day is a great programme to work on. I think everybody's always watched MOTD since Jimmy Hill started it off. The BBC got the contract back in 1992 and I've worked for the last seven years on the programme and it's a great way to spend Saturday afternoon. We have eight matches beamed into the studio so it's like wall to wall football that we've got. It's a nice atmosphere in there, the people that I work with are great, the people behind the scenes are terrific and it's a fast moving programme on a Saturday night with a lot of people watching it.

You once said that you'd stay with the BBC for as long as they've got MOTD. Is that still the case?

Yes, certainly. I was approached by ITV in the summer and I thought long and hard about going there because obviously they've got the Champions League, England games and the FA Cup. But, MOTD is still a big programme and I've just signed a five year contract with the BBC so, hopefully, they'll have MOTD for the next five years and beyond that who knows. It'd be nice to think I could stay on at MOTD for a long, long time because, as I said before, it's a terrific programme to work on.

Were you not tempted by the ITV offer?

Well, I was quite tempted because of the football that they have got. The Champions League is a big competition but the top people at the BBC have assured me that they are going to fight back. If we get the FA Cup back, which we lost to ITV about three years ago, then we'll be back to where we started in 1992. The MOTD programmes as well as the live FA Cup games would be great for us.

In an interview, you described Des Lynam as the master. How much of a blow was it to lose him to ITV?

It was obviously a massive blow to lose Des Lynam because he was the best of the best and he's very, very difficult to replace. He certainly helped me in my seven years at the BBC and we had a great rapport going between the two of us. But, the first thing you learn in football or in television is never look back, always look forward and I'm sure Des would say the same thing. Gary Lineker has come in and he's a great presenter and he's very easy to work with. We get on great and play a lot of golf together, which I always win of course, and he's good to work with. MOTD is not really about the presenters or the pundits, it's all about the football that's on show. It's a great highlights package and when you look at the figures that we get for football that would certainly emphasise that point.

What are your views on managers and players such as Alex Ferguson  who criticise the pundits?

I have really got a problem with that because when I was in football I didn't like pundits either. I was very anti the pundits. It's ironic that I eventually turned into a pundit. But, I think that when you play or when you manage the football clubs and you watch the pundits on television, you think they're talking a load of rubbish. I was exactly the same. Everyone thinks that they know best but I think the pundits have got a job to do, to go on television and try and give something to the average supporters that they don't see in a match. Basically, that's what we try and do. The big thing about being on television is that you can't please all of the people all of the time. We've upset a few people just as a few people have upset me in my time. I've got no problem with Alex about that.

What about the 1986 World Cup when Ferguson dropped you from the squad?

Obviously, I've been asked that question many times. The 1986 World Cup was a bitter blow to me but what he writes about in his book, his facts are wrong, I think he's got a bad memory. Especially the World Cup qualifier against the Welsh at Cardiff or wherever it was. He said that 24 hours before the kick-off, Jock Stein came across to him and said 'look at Hansen, he said he's injured and doesn't want to play'. Well, I don't think they were talking about the right person because I wasn't there. I'd pulled out on the Saturday night. Then, he goes onto say that Jock Stein had said to him that I was always injured but, in the actual World Cup qualifiers, that was the only game I missed. One game out of something like eight. I mean I didn't play in any but I turned up for them all and was prepared to play in them. So, I think that 13 years down the line, his memory has gone a bit astray.

He revealed that in his book, do you think he was wrong to do that?

No, I don't think so. I think it's just the same as my book, it's something to talk about. To be fair to Alex, he got a lot of criticism at the time for leaving me out especially in England. But, he's a manager who's always stuck by his decisions and it's paid lots of rewards for him. People say it's a mistake, it was a mistake at the time. It doesn't matter to me now because the first thing you learn at Liverpool is never look back. I've got no regrets about anything. I had 14 fantastic years at Liverpool and people say I should have had 100 caps for Scotland but, as an eight or a nine year old, you'd be quite happy to get one cap and I got 26. So, I've got no problems about that either.

Do you not miss playing anymore for Scotland?

No. I don't miss playing. I don't miss playing for Liverpool. I had 14 great years at Liverpool and when I finished, I was ready to go. Some people live and breathe football, I don't. I don't miss playing in the slightest. I had a great time and I'm in television now. Plus, my knees are so bad that I can't play anyway.

How important are teams like Preston in football in general?

They're very, very important. Preston have got a great history and tradition and I think it's a shame for clubs with that sort of history and tradition to be in the lower divisions. I think that they should still all be up in the higher divisions, especially the clubs around here with great tradition such as Preston, Burnley and Blackburn. I suppose now it's a great grounding for kids coming into the game but the supporters of these clubs would want their teams to do better. It's important, especially in this area, that you've got a strong Preston, Blackburn and Burnley.

Is it possible for these clubs to get back up in the big time again?

I think it's very difficult. I think the modern game is all about money and resources and big crowds going into the grounds to make these resources available. Or, if you've got someone like Jack Walker at Blackburn, I think you need someone like that who's got an input and a lot of money to get the players. It's all about players going onto the pitch and, if you haven't got 11 good players to go on the pitch, then there's no way you're going to get back into the higher divisions.