‘You can’t win anything with kids’ – departing Hansen divisive, but iconic


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Alan Hansen will sit on the Match of the Day panel for the final time on Sunday, after 22 years of wry, dry commentary on the English game.

The former Liverpool and Scotland defender will continue to work with the BBC during the World Cup, but this will be his last act as a Premier League pundit on Britain’s state broadcaster.

Hansen, 58, had an illustrious playing career, winning eight First Division titles, three European Cups and two FA Cups, contributing to a total of 24 trophies for Liverpool.

He declined to become a manager, instead moving into the media, where he became an iconic fixture on the BBC.

Perhaps his most renowned moment was the infamous "you can’t win anything with kids" line, said of Manchester United’s young team after a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995-96 season; of course, United went on to win the double that season, becoming the most dominant team in English history.

In a Telegraph column, another sports broadcasting legend, the inimitable Des Lynam, recounted a special, recent moment with Hansen:

"Just like when I was playing, I felt sick until kick-off" - It was a conversation I had this week with Alan Hansen about the nervousness he still feels for the half hour or so before every Match of the Day in which he appears, this after 22 years.

That tale says everything about Hansen – despite a laconic style that could be mistaken for disinterest, his passion for the game was unrivalled. Certainly in recent years he showed more appetite for it than his co-worker Mark Lawrenson.

Gary Lineker, who replaced Lynam as host of Match of the Day, also paid tribute to Hansen in the Daily Mirror:

"I am going to miss Alan a lot. I think he has been on so long people are familiar with how he is and, what happens when you are on screen a lot, you are relaxed in who you are and are relaxed in your environment. Then you become yourself and people decide whether they like you or not. Like every pundit people have their views on Alan, but he set the tone in terms of analysis. We used to just show the goals, but in his early career he said 'no I want to do it differently'. He wanted to show how you defend, how the team shapes and all of that."

Lineker touched on Hansen’s personality and style perfectly – he knows his football, always takes a strong line, and is not afraid to upset supporters of big clubs if he feels their teams are lacking in something, particularly in defence.

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Hansen was never more animated than when he saw what he felt was slack play at the back. "Terrible defending" would be the standard response. There were no excuses for poor concentration or sloppy positioning. Defending is the fundamental of the game, the rest comes later.

That did not endear him to some viewers, who found his delivery dour and his view of how the game should be played conservative.

But as far as explaining the art of defending goes, Hansen was one of the best.

The BBC has not announced his replacement - some feel it should be an ex-player, while others feel it is time for a woman to take a senior spot on the panel.

Whoever steps in while have big boots to fill. But such is the nature of football, he or she will have detractors and supporters - but no-one will match his laconic delivery.

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