EXCLUSIVE Jeff Stelling Interview: Balotelli, Tévez, Soccer Saturday and Champions League

27 Jun

Jeff Stelling is the hugely popular host of Soccer Saturday, Countdown and, from the coming season, Sky Sports’ Champions League Football. Here, I spoke to him about his career in the media, thoughts on Soccer Saturday and his views on all things Manchester City.

View From A Blue: How did you break into the media?

Jeff Stelling: My first job was at the Hartlepool Mail when I was 18. I eventually broke into radio and then television, firstly at the old TV-am, and started working as a freelance at Sky in 93. I arrived for a day and have been there ever since.

VFAB: Is it something you always wanted to do?

JS: I told my headmaster when I was 12 that I wanted to be a journalist. He was not impressed. But I can’t think I would be much good at anything else.

VFAB: Soccer Saturday, in theory, shouldn’t work – the viewer is looking at four men who are looking at TV screens – what do you think is the key to its success?

JS: The key to Soccer Saturday is that it provides, hopefully, a score service plus! The most important thing for fans is to know how their team is doing: we add the oohs and aahs, a bit of banter and a dollop of debate, and it’s the mix that makes it what it is. Of course you need the right pundits otherwise it could be dull as I understand some other channels demonstrate!

VFAB: What is your dream Soccer Saturday panel?

JS: Well, given any choice it would by Cheryl Cole, Kylie and Danni Minogue and Rachel Riley! But if it has to be pundit based, I’d be very happy with what we have now. Don’t get me wrong: there are some outstanding pundits on other shows and channels – Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp, Alan Hansen and Lee Dixon – but our current four are perfect for Saturdays.

VFAB: Do you have any standout moment from Soccer Saturday?

JS: There are plenty of stand-out moments but my favourite was when Jimmy Glass, the Carlisle goalkeeper, scored in added time to keep them in the Football League at the expense of Scarborough. I have to say the final day of the most recent Premier League season has to be right up there too.

VFAB: Do you miss not being able to go to Hartlepool matches because you’re presenting on a Saturday afternoon?

JS: The best way to follow Pool is from about 200 miles away! Yes, I do miss not seeing them play but as I have the best job in the world I can’t complain too much.

VFAB: You’re hosting Sky’s Champions League football, how do you think City will fare in it?

JS: The first season in the Champions League is always tough, but look at how well Spurs coped.  City have players with bags of European experience, a manager who knows the European style of play inside out and have a chance of doing really well.  There are two provisos though: Tévez has to stay and play and Balotelli and/or Dzeko need to prove themselves as consistent goalscorers.  I’d also love to see Mancini have a bit more belief in Adam Johnson.

VFAB: City fans aren’t happy with Gary Neville’s appointment to the Sky panel – how do you think he will cope with a City v Liverpool match for example?

JS: Pass!

VFAB: Where do you see City in a couple of years time?

JS: Given the backing City have now, they have to be a major force in the Premier League. I expect them to challenge next season as long as they can cope with playing in the Champions League as well. In European terms, everyone is light years behind Barcelona, but City should be able to establish themselves as a side that no-one wants to be drawn against.

VFAB: What do you make of Mario Balotelli?

JS: I don’t get Balotelli at the moment. People say he is super-talented but I haven’t seen enough so far. However, he is young and people who know a lot more than me say he will be a star. He certainly needs a good PR man!

VFAB: 3rd Jan 1976 in FA Cup Round 3: City 6 – 0 Hartlepool. Do you have any recollection of that game?

JS: I was at Maine Road that day and I remember being three down early on, so it was game over. But my main recollection is our defender George Potter nutting Dennis Tueart who retaliated and they were both sent off! Mind you, looking at the team we had at the time, your lot should be ashamed of only scoring six!

VFAB: Who is your favourite ever City player?

JS: I’m not just saying this, but over the years City have had some wonderful players – the obvious ones, Colin Bell, Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee, even Big Joe Corrigan. More recently, the Goat, Kinkladze, Ali Benarbia. Possibly Dennis Tueart in his heyday. Now of course we all admire Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva. But Tevez has to be the one for me.

Many thanks to Jeff who kindly gave up his time to speak to me. Let me know below your thoughts and any reaction to what Jeff has said above.

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14 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE Jeff Stelling Interview: Balotelli, Tévez, Soccer Saturday and Champions League”

  1. Chinners 27/06/2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Great read … cheers

  2. Tudor 27/06/2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Cracking read and well done for getting Jeff to engage in the Q&A in the first place.

  3. REFCR 27/06/2011 at 9:28 pm #

    Good interview, really interesting. The only question i didn’t get was the Gary Neville one. It isn’t up to MCFC fans who SKY appoint. MUFC fans have had to see a liverpool dominated media for the last 15 years and even the ridiculously biased Mike Summerbee at the last derby so really it’s a case of put up and shut up and accept the views of people you may not agree with. At least Garry will give his honest opinion, provoke debate, freshen things up, and avoid the regurgitated rubbish. Just my opinion.

    Excellent interview.

    • View From A Blue 27/06/2011 at 10:42 pm #

      As ManchesterBLUE says, I think you’re missing the point. It is not a case of City fans choosing who Sky employ, it’s a case of Gary Neville’s undoubted impartiality. I’m not blaming him for this as he’s United through and through, and understandably so, but it does bring into question how he could give a fair assessment of a City v Liverpool game for instance, when he detests both teams.

      With regards to Mike Summerbee, he was brought it as a guest pundit for one match only, featuring City. He was included because of his City links and gave his opinion as a City fan. If you want pundits, specifically chosen because of their links to one club, to come in and offer bland and neutral opinions, then we’re on different wavelengths.

      • weboab 28/06/2011 at 7:53 pm #

        wat u on about gary neville is a blue

  4. ManchesterBLUE 27/06/2011 at 10:21 pm #

    REFCR, no one has said it’s up too a Man City fan who Sky appoint. The question relating to Neville is a genuine question, which was answered perfectly. Fact is anyone who watches football, knows football and has ever listened to the idiot neville speak will know he is the most biast person going and it is also a fact that he hates both Man City & Liverpool with a passion. I’d even go as far as saying that if he wasn’t a footballer he’d be sat in the pub with the rest of the “I couldn’t care less what City do, shit they beat Chelsea 1-0?” bitter reds!!

  5. Martin 28/06/2011 at 11:21 am #

    No mention of Kolarov or Dzeko as a current favourite city player otherwise good reading

  6. Siamack 28/06/2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Gary Neville is a jerk. His example is similar to a saying that my father used to tell me ” The sea water does not get dirty if a dog drinks from it”.

  7. rodders 28/06/2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Was your dad special?

    • Siamack 28/06/2011 at 6:11 pm #

      Every son sees his dad as special unless you are an exception to the rule.

  8. Citizen Kane 28/06/2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Good interview, well done. I’ve never met a supporter of any team who doesn’t like Jeff Stelling.
    Buzzer wasn’t ‘ridiculously biased’ as one poster has commented, all he did was try to break up the sickening wank-fest surrounding the kerb crawler’s shinned winner, helped by Kompany losing his footing on the pudding of a pitch, and point out that City deserved a draw from the game at least.
    I suppose Dwight Yorke, another rag striker more famous for where he stuck his dick rather than the football, was the modicum of impartiality?
    Go give your head a wobble.

    • JOHN GUIDETTI WILL YOU STOP LEAVING ME IN LIMBO?! 28/06/2011 at 8:46 pm #

      Citizen Kane – superb response – “all he did was try to break up the sickening wank-fest surrounding the kerb crawler’s shinned winner, helped by Kompany losing his footing on the pudding of a pitch, and point out that City deserved a draw from the game at least.”

      That was simply one of the best comments i think ive read on this website…and i thought it stopped there but no! Super ending too!

      Credit to Mr Stelling here for giving up his time after we met him at Countdown. Genuinely really nice man, and a delight to see on the tv, top interview too, good range of questions

  9. Jonny Hyde 29/06/2011 at 7:47 am #

    Brilliant Interview! from @jonnyhyde

  10. Mick Warren 27/08/2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Great site mate.

    soccerstronghold All the football news,football transfers, wonderkids and football videos in one place

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