One of the nation’s most adored figures in football, Jeff Stelling spoke exclusively to UCFB about Soccer Saturday, his worst mistakes on the show and the famous cheat sheet.

For all the behind-the-scenes efforts of the producers, directors and statisticians on Sky Sports’ hugely popular show Soccer Saturday, the presenter prefers to stick to a more old-school way of doing things – hiding a piece of paper behind the screen.

He told UCFB: “I hand write stats about all of the games. I include the bare basics as in the fury of the programme it’s easy to forget the most basic things. But you also make sure you look for things slightly more off the wall.”

 

An unexpected favourite of Stelling’s is to find a player who should be scoring goals but, for some unknown reason, is failing to do so. This is exactly what he achieved in his discovery of Josh McEachran, the Brentford midfielder who went 198 games without scoring a goal.

The presenter said: “I knew one day he would score that goal, and I knew I would be able to say triumphantly, there’s Josh McEachran in his first goal at the 198th game of asking!”

But things didn’t go quite to plan for Stelling. He explained: “I don’t always do midweek games, and one midweek show when Brentford were playing Josh took a free kick. He completely mishit the thing – it was meant to head for the centre but went straight into the top corner – and I was unable to say Josh with his first goal in 199 appearances. I was gutted!”

Stelling added: “I remember it well, I was sat at home shouting at the TV screen going ‘No! No!’”

Stelling recalls the more genuine regrets of his broadcasting career, which are made worse by the irreversible nature of live broadcasting. Recently this came in the form of a throwaway comment made about Nottingham Forest’s Lyle Taylor and his bright pink hair.

Stelling said: “A couple of minutes after insulting his hair, my producer said it’s October and he’s dyed his hair pink to raise awareness for breast cancer and I thought, oh my God! I beat myself up for a while.”

But the Sky Sports star is of the view you shouldn’t try and bury your mistakes in the past. Instead, he believes there is merit in owning up to your errors, even more so in doing whatever possible to rectify them. That’s why Stelling, who himself does a lot of charity work for Prostate Cancer UK, came into work the week after his on-screen blunder wearing a bright pink wig!