Sky Soccer Saturday (Sky Sports, 1998-present)
As the Olympics are now finally underway, let’s take a look back at another sport show. A long time ago, back in the OnDigital days, there were various packages available. These included having access to some Sky Movies and Sky Sports channels, but these cost extra, so we never had those, and they remained blank. I did know a little about Sky Sports’ programming though, including their live coverage of Premier League matches.
The rest of us had to make do with the highlights on Match Of The Day or The Premiership. There was also Sky Soccer Saturday. I remember when I used to listen to Hawksbee And Jacobs on TalkSport in the afternoon, and when the producer used to try and tell Andy Jacobs something whilst he was talking, he would get rather flustered and say “I am not Jeff Stelling!”.
I also read articles that had praised Stelling’s hosting abilities, including being able to keep a long live show going, and being up to date with all of the results as they came in without smoke beginning to come out of his ears. When Sky Sports News came to Freeview, I could finally see Sky Soccer Saturday for myself. I always thought that this channel was rather curious as it existed in a world where the main headline would be something like a footballer had an injury and could be out for up to four weeks.
Among the most familiar elements of Sky Soccer Saturday are the panellists, made up of ex-players. Stelling once joked that if a manager gets the sack from a club, they went and joined the panel, although this wasn’t too far away from the truth really. As well as in the studio, there were also reporters at various stadiums, and whenever there was a goal we’d definitely find out about it.
Stelling was also praised for his puns, usually based on the goalscorers’ surnames, and for being aware of and also enthusiastic about the significance of a goal that could effect either the top of the Premier League table or the bottom of the Conference. Stelling was also supposedly a long-suffering fan of a lower league club, and he often put a brave face on their constant defeats.
When the show finally ended, I imagine that Stelling had a lie down and a breather after putting in a good afternoon of hard work. Although similar shows eventually launched, including BBC Sport extending Final Score, and ITV Sport’s Football First/The Goal Rush, many consider this to be the best format. When Sky Sports News left Freeview, so did Sky Soccer Saturday, which was a disappointment.
In 2009, Stelling became the host of Countdown, which I thought was a good move, and I consider him to be my favourite of the post-Whiteley hosts. Some people seemed to think he treated the game a little too much like sports coverage though, eagerly updating the scores, and making football references (still better than Alphabetical though). He left after three years, and continues to work for Sky Sports to this day.