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20th Jan 2024

Jeff Stelling on working with Joey Barton and how the ex footballer has created a ‘monster’

Lee Costello

“I’ve worked with Joey a couple of times and I enjoyed his company then.”

Former Sky Sports Soccer Saturday present Jeff Stelling opens up on his time working with Joey Barton, and the ‘monster’ that the former Premier League star has created.

Barton has recently left football management, and went into the podcast space – and in order to ramp up listeners and spark some interest in his new outlet, the Englishman started attacking the quality of women pundits and commentators in sport.

The ex Newcastle and Man City star was very vocal in his opinion that females should not be talking about the men’s game, because in his opinion they don’t know enough, and an endless barrage of posts on social media, targeting individual pundits, commentators and presenters, has turned the debate into something dark and hateful.

Now a host on TalkSPORT and starting a new podcast of his own, Stelling sat down with The Guardian for an exclusive interview, and open-end up on the situation Barton has created.

“Oh, yes. You can’t avoid it, can you? I’ve worked with Joey a couple of times and I enjoyed his company then.

“But you’ve absolutely nailed it. Initially, I’m sure this was to gain some traction for the podcast. Unfortunately it’s become a monster and totally wrong to say women have no right to talk about football.”

Stelling has viewed first hand the cruelty and sexism in football whenever his sister Sue, who was six years older than him, used to take him to see his beloved Hartlepool. “She would honestly be the only woman in the ground. There were no toilet facilities for women and it was very foreboding and unwelcoming.”

Jeff Stelling

“Did the men make comments about Sue?” asked Donald McRae from The Guardian:  “Oh yeah! And they weren’t as mild as that. It was a totally sexist environment. To see a woman at football was a shock and they didn’t understand she was just my big sister doing me a massive favour in taking me to the game.

“I’m so glad that’s changed because you now see so many women and families at football matches.”

Now going on tour to promote his new podcast, it’s telling that Stelling asked Bianca Westwood, his former Sky colleague, to host his evenings on tour.

“Fifty years ago, a woman wouldn’t have had an opinion on football because most had never been to a live game because it was such a forbidding, alien atmosphere. But times have changed, thank God.”

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