In a humble and witty address from the 5ft 7¼ legend, Stelling spoke about “lucky breaks” and “no regrets,” remembering stories from school and how week after week he used to write to the Hartlepool Mail and week after week he used to get published as the Star Letter – later to find out this was because his was the only letter they actually received.
After several jobs commenting on everything from fencing to sumo wrestling he was offered a job presenting on ‘Sports Saturday’ which he described as a sport show with no sports. He laughed about showing synchronised swimming routines in the studio with no water and about using Subbuteo to present the World Cup Final because they had no actual rights to any football or indeed any other sports footage.
Stelling then describes as to how Soccer Saturday came into existence. He was approached by the director of Sport Saturday and they told him they wanted to make it a football show, it would have no actual rights to any football footage but may include the occasional score and Jeff was asked “do you know anyone to present it?” To which he replied “yes, me.”
And so the football programme that doesn’t show any football but has five people in a studio talking about football was born, with Stelling at the helm of it.
When asked “what makes the show so entertaining?” Stelling simply answers that it is better than Ceefax and fills a void in the market. He goes on to explain that the chemistry of the people he is working with and the banter (like that of a dressing room) makes the show what it is. and off course the Kammyisms.
Other questions and answers included:
“What did the producers say after your rant on Middlesbrough?” JS – Nothing, they had nothing to say as they didn’t know where it was going and neither did I. I am very glad I did it and I hope it brought good publicity to the region.
“What are your thoughts on the Euros, England and our chances of success?” JS – so many high hopes year on year with our national team. I think we are short on firepower and creativity. Not sure it’s going to be great. Not convinced.
“What are the positive and negatives of football coverage?” JS – it’s great when there isn’t anything on a Wednesday but there is an argument for it being too over exposed. I remember when it was just the FA cup final that was broadcasted and crowds would be bigger. It (the coverage) benefits big clubs immensely but the smaller clubs not so much – I think there probably needs to be a redistribution of money so it benefits all.
“Are transfer windows a good or bad thing?” JS – Hopeless and rotten. There is a thought that it stops clubs getting unwelcomed bids throughout the season but it doesn’t work like that. It just produces wild scrambles and inflated prices. And is January the best time for clubs to buy or indeed lose players? Smaller clubs are pressured to sell their best players at a time when they could need them most.
“Thoughts on Middlesbrough FC?” JS – Mowbray is a miracle worker. What he has done with no money is astonishing. He’s a fab manager but don’t expect too much. I think they are punching above their weight and if things don’t go right please don’t blame the manager.
“What’s the best stadium you’ve been to?” JS – (without hesitation) Victoria Ground. In seriousness the Millennium Stadium when the roof is closed has an amazing atmosphere. So do the Emirates and San Siro but for all round atmosphere it has to be the Nou Camp – it was wonderful.
“If you could have any persons past or present to be on the show who would they be?” JS – Alex Ferguson because he speaks his mind, and there is no one as opinionated in football as Brian Clough. And probably Merson and Wenger as well. I think they would be an awesome foursome.
“Where did you get the singing doll from?” JS – a man in a car outside the studio gave it to me. He was a fan of the show and he just gave it to me. I didn’t even get his name. I sneaked it into the studio and didn’t tell anyone, no one knew I was going to do what I did. It was brilliant fun.
Speaking at a private dinner with Stelling after the event I asked him who he hopes and thinks the next England manager will be and his response was hoping and thinking it will be Redknapp, as he reckons Pearce is not good enough for the job.
And I couldn’t leave him without talking about my beloved Forest. Stelling believes the best thing that can happen to Forest would be to bring back Billy (I couldn’t agree more). He also said that McClaren is a lovely guy but not a good manager and Cotterill is just not right for Forest.
Rumour has it Jeff and his team are doing a tour of the country. I don’t know what this will entail but if it follows the format that this evening took place and if they are as honest and open as Stelling was then I suggest that every football fan gets tickets. He was genuinely one of the nicest and down to earth people I have ever met and believe me he doesn’t hold back on his thoughts and opinions.