Date: 7th April 2009 at 5:04pm
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To celebrate the release of Jeff Stelling‘s new book, Jellyman Throws A Wobbly, Vital Hartlepool caught up with Hartlepool’s most famous supporter to get his views on all things football.

In this multi-part interview we discuss his new book, Soccer Saturday, Countdown, the climax of the Premier League season and, of course, Pools.

Today we talk to about Soccer Saturday.

Vital Hartlepool: Soccer Saturday is now the choice of fans unable to get to their teams game, what do you think the reason behind the shows popularity is?

Jeff Stelling: Well, it’s simply because it offers something that no-one else ever did. In days gone by if you weren’t at a game, say Pools were down at Exeter or something like that, you might get a quick report on local radio but you wouldn’t get all the other stuff that was going on as well.

And if you were stuck with the national radio you’d have second half commentary of bloody Man United which is of no interest if you support Pools or whoever. It offered that service to fans, like a much faster version of Teletext and it added a bit of humour from the panel and some excitement.

I’m going to sound really arrogant here but people have tried to copy it since and I just simply think we do it better than them.

VH: How did you end up hosting one of the most popular sports shows in the country?

JS: It all started on Sky when we had a show called Sports Saturday which was a mish-mash of all sorts of odds and ends. We’d go to football at about 4.30 and look at the vidiprinter but you had no clue what had gone before.

Say somebody was leading 5-0, you’d have no idea who’d got the goals or anything like that. The show itself was a bit of a shambles and got terrible viewing figures so they looked for ways to change it.

One of my bosses came up with this idea and I was on the spot at the time when they said ‘Do you think it will work?’ and I said that it could do. Then the asked who I thought should present it and I simply put my hand up and said I’ll give it a go.

That was 11 or 12 years ago and we were all surprised at how well it worked and how 11 years on we’re still there. There’s no reason now it couldn’t continue ad infinitum, if you like.

VH: In terms of your career, you started with the Hartlepool Mail but where did you go from there?

JS: After the Mail I sort of lurched from job to job. Not always successful ones. After the Hartlepool Mail I went to what was Radio Tees in Stockton, in glorious Dovecot Street.

From there I went down to London station LBC and then to BBC Radio 2, which covered sport like 5 live does these days. Then to TV-AM, which became GMTV and over to BSkyB, Eurosport and a bit of freelancing too before I got a call from Sky Sports who were about to launch a horse racing show, he rang up to ask for some advice so I went to a couple of meetings.

At the end of the last meeting he said ‘We’re still looking for a host, do you have any ideas?’ and again I said ‘I could have a go at that’ so my break on Sky was presenting the horse racing really and things went from there.

VH: Do you ever have a cheeky word to your bosses at Sky to try and get a few Pools games on TV each season?

I can’t sadly, but a few seasons ago we played Rochdale in the FA Cup and it went to a replay. Sky were legally committed to putting a replay on and there was only a choice of 3 and thankfully they chose us.

I remember Russ Green ringing us up and saying ”Thanks mate, you’ve done us a big favour.” and I’d had nothing to do with it!

Click here to read part 3 of our exclusive interview.

Click here to win copies of Jeff’s new book

Click Here for Jeff Stelling Week