Date: 10th April 2009 at 3:29pm
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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 get talking about football.

Vital Hartlepool: The big 3 teams in the North East aren’t having the best of times this season. Do you think they can beat the drop?

Jeff Stelling: I daren’t think. I’ll be honest, I fear the worst. Middlesbrough has really shocked me, more than Newcastle. I expected them to have a good season this year. I thought with Downing, Alves and Tuncay all good players and people like Emnes who came in with big reputations.

Defensively I thought they’d be strong with Huth, Wheater and Pogatetz but now I fear the worst.

Newcastle has been a shambles from top to bottom, they’ve been let down by the people at the very top. I saw Newcastle at the very start of the season when they went to Coventry in the Carling Cup and won.

James Milner was absolutely sensational that night and I remember talking to Kevin Keegan afterwards and him commenting that he should be in the full England squad and that he was going nowhere.

Then 2 days later he was on the transfer list and going to Villa, Keegan went shortly afterwards and I blame the people at the top for all of that. Had Keegan stayed and if they’d kept hold of people like Milner they wouldn’t be where they are now.

It’s been a lot closer at the top of the Premier League too this year. Where do you think the title will end up?

JS: I think it’ll go right to the wire. Liverpool are showing they’re not a one-man team although Gerrard is the best player in Premier League for me.

Manchester United have got great players but when teams wobble it can be difficult to come back.

VH: While we may may be facing relegation, Darlington could be facing extinction. How do you feel about their plight?

JS: I know they’re our arch rivals but I feel sorry for them. They’ve been burdened with the ridiculous stadium and it totally works against them.

A 25,000 seater stadium with 2 or 3 thousand fans in, well, you can’t play at a ground like that.

The overheads are huge but I think Dave Penney is a top manager at that level and I really like him. He’s a good guy and I feel very sorry for them, obviously you want to win the derby games but you need the derby games to be there in the first place so I hope they get out of trouble.

VH: Thanks for talking to us Jeff, we look forward to reading your book.

To enter our competition to win a signed copy of Jeff’s new book and to read the previous parts of our interview simply click the link below.

Click here to win copies of Jeff’s new book

Click Here for Jeff Stelling Week