When Gary Lineker strides into the Ivy Chelsea Garden unnoticed by the braying pre-Christmas clientele, I can’t help thinking that it’s the perfect place to meet him. As the late critic and author AA Gill once said of customers at London’s original Ivy restaurant, “At every lunch or dinner, anyone who reads a Sunday paper will recognise a dozen relaxed, smooth-toothed, autocue animated faces”. Gill was referring to the Ivy in its 1990s pomp, when actors, rock stars, hacks and hangers-on would battle for the best tables. These days, one doesn’t have to try quite so hard. The brasserie may be brimming with latter-day “Sloane Rangers”, the 1980s coinage for the UK’s pink-faced and pink-trousered county and Chelsea set when Lineker was at his footballing peak, but the brash confidence of Cool Britannia feels rather distant from Brexit Britain. The silver-haired 56-year-old who settles into the wicker chair opposite me was -until recently -enjoying a remarkable second act. A rare footbal...

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