Ask any football fan and they will no doubt be guilty of watching their team and moaning: ‘I could do better than that.’
At stadiums up and down the country such a phrase is often muttered, or occasionally shouted, by supporters watching their beloved club.
A striker misses a golden opportunity, a midfielder shanks a cross into the stands or a defender commits a howler that allows the opposition to take the lead.
‘I could do better than that.’
It is a phrase Gary Lineker admits he heard throughout his playing career and now too in his role as presenter of Match of the Day. The former Barcelona and Tottenham striker even confesses that he has uttered those words before too.
But, when asked at a Football Writers' Association Live event if journalists could join pundits on the sofa analysing games, Lineker begins to explain why football fans really should not be shouting: ‘I could do better than that.’
“They can’t tell you what it’s like to take a penalty with three minutes to go in a massive game,” he says.
“They cannot tell you that. And, whilst they have a great understanding of the game, to report a match, they can do that with beautiful language, absolutely.
“But to tell you how it feels and to tell you what players are doing wrong, it is really difficult.”
The next question that follows Lineker’s answer is why then do football supporters moan that they could do better?
You never arrive at Wimbledon and hear a spectator lambasting Andy Murray that they could return that serve. Nor at the British Open do you witness a golf fan criticising their favourite player for slicing his drive into the rough.
So why does football bring out such a response?
“The disadvantage football has over other sports on this subject is massive, but I think it is easily explained,” says Lineker.
“Football, most people have played it at some point. They have played at some kind of level.
“But you only ever play against people of a similar level. You have no idea how good Premier League footballers are, absolutely no idea any of you that are just amateur level.”
It is here that Lineker’s point begins to come into focus.
We all have that one friend who was the star player at school, or the colleague who runs the rule at the weekly work five-a-side.
But outside of that bubble, we are never ever able to see them tested. It is the classic case of being a big fish in a little pond.
“Every one of you has probably played with someone at school who has unbelievably good, better than everyone else,” says Lineker.
“And you go: ‘Wow, he had a trial with so and so.’ He never quite made it, because you have no idea how good you’ve got to be.
“Whereas in another sport, like tennis or golf for example, we all go on a golf course and then you all realise how good the professional players are because golf is bloody hard! It is measurable.
“You play on a golf course and you get a score, and you can see how far you it. If you ever play with a pro, you can also do that.
“You can't do that in football. You can’t go on a pitch and play football with a pro. All fans, you’ve all done it, and I’ve done it myself; you sit in the stands and you think – ‘I could do better than that.' But you can’t. You’ve no idea.”
It is this that brings Lineker back to where he started and his assertion that pundits on the sofa have to be ex-players.
Unlike journalists, they have played the game at the highest level. They have missed that penalty in the last minute, they’ve experienced the pressure, the glory and the failure.
Those of us in our own bubble of football, simply put, have not.
“And that’s why we have to have the top players in the programme to tell you about these things, even though you perhaps yourself think you know loads of stuff,” says Lineker.
“But you would never ever go to tell a professional golfer how to swing a golf club and the technicalities of it. It is exactly the same in football. You never get it in cricket either or all the other sports.
“But with football, everyone plays at their own little level and they think they’re actually better than they are.
“I am sorry to say it like that, but that’s why you have got to have people who’ve played at the highest level to talk about World Cup matches. Because they have been there, done it, and experienced it.”
So the next time you go to scream at your favourite player on a Saturday afternoon – “I could do better than that” – stop, and think whether you really could.