FRESH from wowing his hometown crowd with a top evening of entertainment, Jeff Stelling is now looking ahead to his next challenge – scaling Africa’s highest mountain for charity.
Hartlepool’s favourite son will climb the 19,341ft Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in June to raise funds for the Finlay Cooper Fund, alongside ex-footballers Craig Hignett and Colin Cooper.
The children’s charity was set up by former Middlesbrough player Cooper after the death of his two-year-old son in January 2002 in a choking accident.
Jeff has described the charity challenge as a “chance of a lifetime”.
Popular Jeff, who is best known for his anchorman role on Sky Sport’s hugely popular Gillette Soccer Saturday show, was back in Hartlepool for An Evening with Jeff Stelling, held at the Town Hall Theatre, in Raby Road.
The former Rift House Primary School and West Hartlepool Grammar School pupil talked about his childhood, early career and the “best job” in the world presenting Soccer Saturday at the show, which was chaired by the BBC’s Mark “Clem” Clemmit.
The 57-year-old talked openly about a range of subjects including being caned at school, swearing live on air, inappropriate questions to former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, adventures in Japan with Soccer Saturday colleague Chris ‘Kammy’ Kamara and his love of Hartlepool United.
Speaking to the Mail before taking the stage, Jeff spoke about his next adventure – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Jeff said: “We are out there for 10 days and they reckon the route we do should take seven days to physically climb.
“I will be in good company with Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett.
“It is a cracking cause and a chance of a lifetime for me but the bigger picture is raising money for such a good cause.”
Further sponsorship details will be released in the coming weeks.
Jeff, who has not done any training so far, added: “Kammy has done it before, he said it was really satisfying, but would never under any circumstances do it again.
“What Kammy tells me is that it is strenuous and the higher you get, the thinner the air and the tougher it gets.
“The biggest worry is that if you are hit by altitude sickness because no matter how fit you are, you have to turn back.
“I am relatively fit anyway, especially for a bloke of my age.
“It will certainly be interesting.”
Jeff added: “One route has nice huts where you spend each night and have a shower, but our route is tents, a bowl of cold water on the morning and that is your lot.”
Born in Hartlepool in 1955, Jeff had a burning ambition to become a journalist and joined the Hartlepool Mail as a trainee in 1973, which he described as a “fantastic grounding”.
He later branched out into radio, working for the BBC in London, and joined Sky TV in 1994.
Soccer Saturday began its current format with him at the helm back in 1996.
The dad-of-three, a former Countdown presenter, who now lives in Hampshire, was made a Freeman of the Borough in 2010.