“They have become my best friends.”
Jeff Stelling has opened up on Sky Sports’ decision to break-up their long-standing Soccer Saturday panel.
Last week, the broadcasters sacked Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas, all of whom had one year left on their contracts.
Stelling, the popular host of the show remains, as does Paul Merson. They will be joined by various pundits for the new Premier League season.
Jeff Stelling opens up on Soccer Saturday sackings.
The broadcaster, in his first interview since his colleagues were dismissed, spoke about how he discovered he would no longer be working with Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas.
“Tommo rang me first on a Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago. He said the head of football had asked for a meeting at lunchtime and a meeting with Charlie an hour later.
“Just before midday, my phone rang and it was Tiss. I said: ‘Hello Tiss, how’re you doing?’ He said: ‘I was doing OK until I was sacked.”
“That was a real shock. Matt is much younger than the other guys and I was very taken aback. But, as soon as Matt told me he’d been sacked, I knew what was coming.”
Jeff Stelling discussed the dismissals but has no say over the decisions.
Stelling said he discussed the dismissals with Sky Sports’ head of football.
“I talked about the fact the three had gone at the same time just before the start of the season and the difficulties that presented,” he said.
“I didn’t say: ‘Why have you sacked Le Tissier? Why did you sack Tommo and Charlie?’
“I didn’t go through the ins and outs because what other people think won’t sound great.
“I’m an employee and I do what they tell me. If I don’t like it, my alternative is to leave.”
However, he stated that he was not part of the decision-making process and he had no influence over their decisions.
“Their view is it was the right time for change,” he said.
He considered his position but was urged not to walk away.
There were reports that Stelling considered resigning following the sackings. He said, however, said that Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas all urged him to continue presenting the show.
“I don’t feel ready to retire. But do I want to start all over again with a diminished product? All three urged me not to do anything silly.
“We did a show (last week) and once we got into the games you can’t help but enjoy it.
“It was a short show from 2.30 pm to 5 pm and I got messages from Charlie and Tommo saying: ‘We’re watching. Have a good show, mate, just be professional.’
“I feel a responsibility to carry on”
Stelling also stated that he does not expect to be the presenter of Sky Sports Soccer Saturday five years from now.
The 65-year-old said he was not in a position to resign or walk away from his job right now, and that he must continue to work to support his three children, aged 22, 20 and 17.
“I don’t know what sort of job they’re going to get in this coronavirus-ravaged age. So I feel a responsibility to carry on while I’m earning enough to support them.”