Jeff Stelling reveals why he is staying on at Soccer Saturday in new exclusive Hartlepool Mail column

It was the second biggest U-turn of the week I suppose.

By Jeff Stelling
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 9:18 am

The biggest was obviously by Will Smith at the Oscars who went from laughing at Chris Rock’s joke to slapping him in the face in an instant.

It is a good job I don’t get a slap every time I tell a bad gag! I would be a mess!

I know my decision to stay at Sky as host of Gillette Soccer Saturday did come out of the blue.

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Jeff Stelling. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images).

After all the Sports Journalists Association had just given me their coveted Lifetime Achievement award at their annual dinner.

They only do that when they think you are done!

But walking down the street people would shout out ‘Don’t retire Jeff’, cabbies pulled over to tell me the same thing and social media was awash with messages urging me to stay.

The truth is that I was never retiring so there was never going to be a Sinatra or Streisand or Scholes-esque comeback.

I always intended to carry on working and had lots of offers. I had been mulling over which to accept for months.

It was always going to be difficult to leave Sky.

I have been there for 30 years and in that time the company has always been good to me.

They have backed and supported me through some difficult personal times.

And when I suggested that I could carry on for at least another year, they agreed pretty much on the spot.

After all, how could I leave before Paul Merson has learned how to pronounce Allan Saint-Maximin?

Or before Kris Boyd learns to love Leeds United?

I know a year might not be enough by the way which is why I agreed AT LEAST another 12 months with Sky.

Hopefully that will be time enough for me to be presenting when Pools win promotion back to League One.

I didn’t think I would live long enough to see us back in the Football League after four years out but Raj Singh, Dave Challinor, Graeme Lee and the players have made that a reality.

They have run themselves into the ground in what will be a 59 game season by the time we play Colchester United on the final Saturday.

To think the likes of Mikel Arteta complain about fixture congestion when Arsenal will have played 44 games when their season finishes.

And that Lifetime Achievement Award? It’s going to have to go back.

Mr Stelling has kindly donated his fee for his monthly column to Hartlepool's Alice House hospice.

You can support the hospice yourself by ringing (01429) 855555 or by going online to www.alicehousehospice.co.uk/get-involved/donate/

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