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Former Sky Sports panellist Phil Thompson has spoken out after legendary presenter Jeff Stelling announced he would be leaving the company. Last weekend, Stelling revealed live on-air that he would part ways with Sky at the end of the season.
The 66-year-old has hosted Soccer Saturday since 1994 but was left disgruntled after Sky cut three of his long-term colleagues from the programme earlier this year.
Ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Matt Le Tissier were sacked, while Paul Merson was the only regular who survived the unpopular exodus.
Fresh faces including Clinton Morrison, Glen Johnson, Tim Sherwood and Tony Pulis have replaced the group, and soon there will be a new name on centre stage.
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Thompson has opened up about the situation and emphasised just how difficult it will be for Sky Sports and Stelling’s eventual successor.
He told Paddy Power: “He’s left big boots to fill, and there’s nobody ideal to replace him because Jeff is the best.
“It would be very difficult for somebody to be the exact same as him. However, the show will evolve.
“If we were to compare this situation to a manager leaving and a replacement coming in, it’s like when Sir Alex Ferguson left United, and David Moyes stepped in.
“Like in Moyes’ case, everybody is going to scrutinise everything that Jeff’s replacement does.
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“Have they got the knowledge of Jeff? Are they funny like Jeff? Can they get the best out of the pundits as Jeff did?
“They are going to be scrutinised and that’s what happened with Moyes. It’s going to be really difficult for whoever comes in because that happens when you follow an icon.”
The Times report that Stelling quit in solidarity with Thompson, Nicholas and Le Tissier, and the former has confirmed the iconic presenter struggled to cope with their sudden exits.
“When Matt, Charlie and I left, it was very difficult for him to move on without us,” Thompson added.
“The Soccer Saturday show is evolving but I think it was probably difficult for him in that regard.”
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Addressing potential replacements, Thompson has tipped current Sky Sports presenter Julian Warren for the role.
But he believes any potential candidate would have to carry a certain personality to succeed Stelling in the hot seat.
“Julian Warren presents the Soccer Show on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and he’s always been very capable.
“He’ll probably be up there in terms of replacements, but he’s not Jeff Stelling, and he’d be the first to say that. But he’s a great lad.
“With the likes of Kammy [Chris Kamara] and Roy Keane, you have to be of a certain personality and while they’re great pundits, I’m not sure they have what’s needed.”
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