Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer double down as they take fresh swipe at Harry Kane

Lineker on his The Rest is Football podcast
Gary Lineker has mocked calls by Harry Kane for former players-turned-pundits to back England - YouTube

Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer have doubled down on their unprecedented criticism of England and Gareth Southgate after Harry Kane suggested they had ramped it up for their own gain.

The former Three Lions captains mocked calls led by current skipper Kane for them to “back the English players as much as possible” and branded some of his latest comments about the country’s dismal draw against Denmark as “worrying” and “concerning”.

The pair also blamed journalists in Germany for creating a furore by “not being brave enough to ask their own questions” and instead relying on pundits to offer their opinions.

Speaking on the latest edition of Lineker’s The Rest is Football podcast released on Monday, the same platform the BBC Match of the Day presenter had used to brand England’s performance “s---”, the duo were unapologetic.

Lineker said: “Could you imagine if we went on and said, ‘Well, actually, I thought they played really well’? We’d be lying, for a start. Because they didn’t play well. And Harry knows they didn’t play well.

“I understand where he says, ‘But they have responsibilities being ex-England players and they should know, they know what it’s like, it’s not like they’ve ever won anything’, or words to that effect.

“Fine. And he’s absolutely right. But I will say one thing, the last thing in the world we want to be is downbeat and critical. We want the England team to perform well on the pitch. The best punditry of all is when England play well and we’re excited and we’re enthusiastic about them.

“We don’t want to be critical but we have to be sometimes. We have to say it.”

Shearer later added, “What are we meant to say?”, to which Lineker sarcastically replied, “That they were really good, Alan. They were really good, actually”.

Alan Shearer working as a pundit at the stadium after England's 1-1 draw with Denmark in Frankfurt
Alan Shearer has been strongly critical of England's performances in Germany - BBC

Suggesting it may have been Lineker’s comments in particular that had irked Kane, Shearer said: “It might have been that word ‘s---’.

“The simple and easiest thing is, have England played well, or did they play well, in that game against Denmark? No, we were terrible. So, we have to say that. If England are brilliant, we’ll say they’re brilliant. That’s just the way it is.”

Lineker added: “Yes, we were critical and no one’s above criticism, and Harry will know as well.”

Shearer went on: “I’ve no problem with what he said and I wouldn’t take anything back we said. England were really poor.

“The vast majority of the country and, even the boys themselves in the squad, will know. They were awful against Denmark.

“There were hardly any positives at all. But we also said that, ‘One spark and that could easily kick them off and start the tournament’.”

Lineker stressed: “It’s never personal. We’ve actually said we think, really, it’s come from the top, not the players, because they look a little bit lost on the pitch, tactically. Harry said it himself, cryptically sort of, didn’t he? ‘We don’t really know how we’re pressing as a team’.”

The pair also took issue with comments from Kane on Sunday suggesting England were “confused” playing against teams with a three-man defence.

Shearer said: “The draw’s been made for a while now, so I’m sure they’ve been planning to play against a three. So, even those words were slightly worrying, I guess. But you always get the right of reply as players and the team. You go to the next game, you win the game, and you just carry on and move on. That’s tournament football.”

Lineker added: “The comments behind it all, it suggests a lack of tactical nous. If a player’s saying, ‘We’re a bit confused’, that is concerning.”

Lineker pointed out he had been criticised by former England stars Mick Channon and Jimmy Greaves during the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and that he, in turn, had commented on Shearer’s game during the latter’s playing days.

The pair did not address Kane’s claim that podcasts often meant people were “trying to promote their own channels and sometimes the headline, because you want the most views”.

Shearer added: “We’ve both been there as England captains, when you’ve sat in front of the media when England have not played well at all, or you as an individual have not played well.

“And I would’ve answered the question as England captain in exactly the same way as Harry did yesterday.”

Lineker also took aim at reporters covering the England campaign in Germany, claiming that they were taking the easy route of putting pundits’ opinions to players in the hope of triggering a response, rather than giving their own opinions.

“Made the headlines again, haven I?” Lineker said. “Journalists being what journalists are.

“They can be a bit tricky on these things, trying to wind up our footballers. We’ve been obviously critical of England’s performance, as has pretty much every journalist.

“But you know what happens, Alan, it’s happened to you and it’s happened to me over the years. You sit there as a player and it’s your turn to face the press and at some point a journalist says ‘so and so has been critical of you’ and you know they’ve not heard it.

“We’ve talked about this on this podcast before about journalists not being brave enough to ask their own questions.

“I guarantee, whoever asked that would probably have been critical himself. I think they do it, a) to stir the pot and, b) because they’re too scared to ask the questions themselves.

“I get it and it puts Harry on the spot, but I thought he answered it fine with one or two bits in there, but it’s not easy answering a question like that.”

The BBC will also not be ordering Shearer and Lineker to temper their criticisms on its own platforms.

A source said: “We encourage all our pundits to be honest with their opinions and to be themselves.”