My daughter and I, for lack of a World Cup game, found ourselves watching a tribute to football pundit extraordinaire Alan Hansen on telly the other night. Presented by Gary Lineker, it was one of the most moving stories of someone’s life I can remember seeing in a long time.
Through all the archive footage they showed, my daughter got a quick potted history of my football-mad childhood (which is always nice) but of course I was also watching on a deeper level than that, as you would expect. I found his story so moving because he was variously described as ‘very insecure’, ‘extremely shy,’ ‘a constant worrier’ and having ‘very low self-esteem.’ And yet he became one of Liverpool F.C.’s best players ever, captain of the team during the era when they were really good, and the best football pundit t.v. has ever known. Bar none.
He was hotly tipped to become a manager once his playing career had ended because of his extraordinary intelligence about the game, but he refused the offer when it came from Liverpool. The nerves he felt before running out on to the pitch had never got any easier for him and he knew they would be far far worse as a manager. He knew he was incapable of doing the job, it wouldn’t be worth it. Instead he became a t.v. pundit and got terrible nerves before going into the studio instead (which never got any easier). Still, easier than carrying the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of team supporters on your shoulders.
His whole life was shaped through the ‘terrible insecurities’ he suffered, but he faced them, knew his limits, and ended up doing brilliantly at what he chose to do, becoming hugely successful and well-loved along the way.
These days he would be put through a self-esteem building programme. These days we see it as akin to moral failure to be insecure, and to allow our insecurities to limit our life choices. That’s viewed as almost cowardly, or at least not-making-enough-effort; we have a duty to work on our insecurities, deal with them, fix them.
Personally though, I like people with insecurities, I think it’s just human, and I am really glad that Alan Hansen chose to accept his and make his life choices accordingly. Liverpool F.C.’s loss was t.v.’s gain. And, selfishly, mine. I have learned so much over the years about the finer points of the game through listening to Alan Hansen, and as I watch my daughter announce casually ‘Not enough pace on that ball’ and ‘They’re all over the place, they haven’t got any shape’ I can see that it’s passed down to her too. And that’s just after a month of watching the World Cup.
By the end of the programme both myself and my daughter were distraught and close to tears as Gary Lineker wished Alan Hansen a happy retirement. And we don’t actually even watch Match of the Day.