Soccer Saturday legend Jeff Stelling’s shock live-on-air decision to quit Sky Sports sparked by axing of old co-hosts

JEFF Stelling’s shock live-on-air decision to quit Sky Sports was sparked by the axing of his old co-hosts.

He was said to be furious when Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier were given the boot last year.

The popular presenter believed he had not been consulted properly and felt a sense of loyalty to the trio.

The reason for their departure has never been confirmed by Sky but many think it was because they were three white men in their 50s and 60s.

Jeff, 66, revealed this weekend on Soccer Saturday — the show he joined in 1994 — that this would be his last ­season on the programme.

But he was not intending to retire.

An insider said: “Phil, Charlie and Matt were not just colleagues they were mates, and that means a huge amount to him. Jeff is believed to have thought of little else other than of leaving since then.

“He has just been waiting for the right opportunity. If the three hadn’t been axed the way they were, Jeff would have stayed on.”

Jeff, who got a standing ovation from studio pundits when he made his announcement, said: “I’ve loved every moment but the time eventually comes to blow the final whistle.

“It is time to let somebody else have a go at what is the best job in the world.”

One fan tweeted: “Can’t really blame Jeff. The show went woke a few years ago and has been a pale imitation of what made it great.” Another said: “Jeff is Soccer Saturday.”

Representatives for Stelling, who fronted Channel 4 show Countdown from 2008 to 2011, were contacted to comment.

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