Sky’s attempts to freshen up their approach saw the departure of the beloved trio of pundits from Soccer Saturday in 2020 – and their latest exit suggests the tide is changing further
Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay nowCharlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Matt le Tissier start a new football showByJoe Krishnan
- 12:04, 3 Aug 2021
As Sky Sports announce another departure from its flagship goals programme Soccer Saturday, spare a thought for Jeff Stelling.
The charismatic presenter has been a leading figure of the broadcaster’s football coverage on Saturday afternoons for nearly three decades since the Premier League began in 1992.
Surrounded by former footballers discussing the game as they commentated on Premier League matches, Stelling enjoyed a close rapport with them and it reflected in their witty and hilarious exchanges.
Now 66, those faces are becoming less and less familiar to the presenter. And while he is no danger of being replaced himself, the departures of his colleagues suggests the tide is changing.
The cast of the original Soccer Saturday before the team were split apart in 2020
It follows a number of big changes to their punditry team from Sky Sports, with Micah Richards, Sue Smith and Clinton Morrison both given more prominent roles within the company.
Arsenal legend Paul Merson, who had gained popularity for his gaffes and eccentric commentary, was one of the few long-serving former pros who survived the cull, as well as Chris Kamara, the pundit whose catchphrase 'Unbelievable Jeff!’ remains iconic to this day.
But news emerged this week that Tony Cottee had become the latest casualty of Sky’s cuts after 20 years of service for the British broadcaster.
Who could replace Jeff Stelling when he eventually steps aside? Have your say in the comments below.
Jeff Stelling has led the Soccer Saturday coverage since 1992
©Sky UK Limited)
The effects of the coronavirus have hit companies hard and Sky are no different, making some strenuous cuts through the business to help them manage losses from the worldwide disaster.
There has also been a change in direction in terms of making the organisation more culturally diverse.
Still, the brutal nature of their exits has left a bitter pill for some to swallow, including Stelling.
Tony Cottee has been axed by Sky Sports ahead of the new season
On Monday (August 2, 2021) it was announced that Cottee has been axed by Sky Sports following 20 years of service.
The former West Ham, Everton and Leicester star made the announcement on Twitter that the broadcaster had dropped him ahead of the 2021-22 season.
“After 20 years @SkySports, today I was told that I will no longer be on the Soccer Saturday show” he tweeted via his official account.
"I’ve got fantastic memories and had lots of laughs but it’s now time for me to move on and see what the future will bring. It was a privilege to be a part of such a great team.”
Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City discover potential Champions League opponents
England star Tyrone Mings saw psychologist as mental health "plummeted" at Euro 2020
The 55-year-old took the news in good spirit, however, referring to his hilarious ability to somehow report on games that featured a low number of goals.
"I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with at Soccer Saturday in that time and a special thanks to all the cameramen and back room staff who have looked after me so well…
"Perhaps there won’t be so many 0-0’s now?!"
It simply will not be the same without his loathing for a Saturday afternoon stalemate and it is another departure which could make Stelling question his role on the show.
Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier was given the boot by Sky Sports
It was going to be a normal conversation as far as Stelling was concerned. His friend, Matt Le Tissier — or “Tiss” as he was more often referred to — called him during the daytime.
In an announcement that Stelling claims was “out of blue”, Le Tissier informed him he had been let go by Sky.
"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.”
He added: “It hit Matt the hardest because that was out of the blue."
Despite being left stunned by the announcement, Le Tissier, 52, paid tribute to the staff behind the scenes.
He tweeted: “Enjoyed my time at Sky Sports, time to look forward to life’s next challenge, thank you for the support down the years and special thanks to the backroom team."
Phil Thompson had worked across Sky for 22 years
The Liverpool legend had formed a part of the team since 2004, when he left the Reds as their assistant manager.
As one of the more senior members of the team at the age of 65, it was natural that Thompson, nicknamed “Thommo”, would be departing if Le Tissier was also heading out.
There was no bad blood from Thompson as far as he was concerned, with 22 years on the television show.
But he has admitted he misses the atmosphere after forming a “band of brothers”.
“It became a way of life so taking that away… I miss it. Yes, I miss it," he told MailOnline.
“We were a band of brothers. But you do know that change has to happen. They wanted to do it sensitively rather than one day you’re gone.
"They said until we find somebody who is better, it might continue. It was three parts of a midfield. The others could have continued.”
Charlie Nicholas was let go by Sky Sports and has remained tight-lipped on what happened
The former Arsenal legend has kept somewhat quiet on his departure from the show. But the details emerged after Stelling who lifted the lid on how his exit came about.
The writing was on the wall when he, along with Charlie Nicholas, were called in a for meeting.
"Thommo rang me first on a Tuesday morning," presenter Stelling told The Guardian.
"He said the head of football had asked for a meeting at lunchtime and a meeting with Charlie an hour later."
But the 59-year-old ensured he and Thompson sent his best wishes to Stelling as their replacements Joleon Lescott, Tim Sherwood and Morrison began their new roles last season.
He now writes a column for the Daily Express, writing about Scottish football after his playing career with Celtic and Arsenal.
Do you want an exclusive pre-season preview of YOUR club – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy.
Tony Cottee announces Sky Sports axe after 20 years ahead of fresh Soccer Saturday shake-up
BBC One presenter Alex Scott's perfect on-screen response to shut down Lord's accent claim
Follow @mirrorfootballMORE ON Sky SportsTony CotteePhil ThompsonRobert Jeff StellingChris KamaraCharlie NicholasPaul MersonMatt Le TissierPremier League
Get the FREE Mirror Football newsletter by email with the day’s key headlines and transfer news
Sign upInvalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow me See ourPrivacy NoticeMost Read