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Sky Sports search for Jeff Stelling replacement ‘down to final two’

Sky Sports are reportedly nearing an end to their search for the Jeff Stelling replacement with it said to be ‘down to the final two’.

The last two candidates hoping to be the new face of the channel’s Soccer Special shows has been revealed with the season beginning in a month’s time.

Sky Sports are to make a decision over the next few days whether Caroline Barker or Simon Thomas will be the new presenter of the scores programme.

Insiders claim that the experienced former Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas is favourite for the role – but Caroline Barker is also highly admired by those at Sky, impressing with her coverage of netball but also her ability to cover a variety of sports and has the knowledge of all leagues top to bottom.

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She also regularly presents on the BBC, was part of 5 Live’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup and was the first female presenter of Match Day Live for Premier League Productions.

Thomas left full-time broadcast work six years ago after his wife Gemma died just three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

He left his role as lead football presenter of Sky to spend time with his young son, but since then, is freelancing for a variety of platforms and channels.

Now he is “hoping to return to a full-time gig in the not-so-distant future”.

In February, he said: ‘For many many years, whilst I was technically freelance – I wasn’t really’, Thomas began.

‘For eighteen or so years at the BBC with Blue Peter & then on to Sky Sports I was on either one, two or even three year contracts. For a broadcaster, these contracts were absolute gold dust. I was incredibly fortunate.

‘Financially I had security, I could make plans, I could put money aside for holidays, pay into pensions & rainy day funds.

‘Almost five years on I still know deep down it was the right decision; but as I’ve slowly tried to rebuild my career; its left me in the strange new world of being truly freelance’, he wrote.

‘That world of one minute feeling busy and fulfilled with a packed work calendar, to then turning the page & seeing empty weeks stretching ahead & feeling a sense of disconcerting emptiness.

‘I’ve quickly learnt that being freelance in broadcast is not for the faint hearted. One minute you can feel on top of the world wondering how you’re going to fit everything in; next you’re feeling that uncomfortable anxiety pondering where the next gig is going to come from. Is the rainy day fund going to run dry?

‘Part of me loves the excitement of the unknown; the not knowing what might come next; but perhaps a bigger part of me craves a return to the days of a decent degree of certainty.’

Recent reports suggest that Jeff Stelling may well return to TV next season after holding discussions with Amazon and the BBC. He is expected to appear on Channel 4’s Countdown but as a guest after filming episodes recently.

SEE MORE: Geoff Shreeves quits Sky Sports after rejecting pay cut and considers other offers

Here’s what fans are saying as the Sky Sports search for a Jeff Stelling replacement goes ‘down to the final two’…

@NathWatkins2020: I hope @SimonThomasTV gets the job he will be fantastic

@k_bhogal: “Unbelievable Simon”

@jamsey55: He’s great but not sure he’s got the charisma for Saturday. Then again maybe Sky are unfortunately trying to do away with that. ☹️

@matty_appleby: Julian Warren is the king

@Bryanmarshall50: Simon Thomas is top drawer. As is Jools Warren. Two outstanding candidates IMO.

Martin Spencer: Should be Julian Warren. 100%.

James Furness: Was hoping for Jules has he does a great job midweek but definitely Simon out of those two but they’ll probably go with the PC crowd no doubt

Mike Thomas: Caroline Barker is great. Fab presenter, knowledgable & likes a laugh

Clifford Jones: Should be Jules, he’s been brilliant when hosting live games midweek and and stand in on Soccer Saturday ⚽️

Mc Dav: Gotta be Simon Thomas out the 2 of them

Gary Phillips: Should of been jules RIP Soccer Saturday 😭😭

Andrew Williams: Dan Walker would be my choice, loves the game and could quite easily join in with the banter.

Scott Pearce: That programme is done

Ben Wheeler: Has to be jules

Mick Collins: Sky sports has gone to sht 🤨

Trevor Turton: That program is finished….sky have managed to wreck a perfectly good set up…. I’m out.

Kevin Hartley: Sky cost cutting is starting to become a bit of a joke wonder if there prices will drop now they have got rid of all the best workers to bring in mediocre replacements 🤦🏼

Andrew Uttley: Was dead in the water once they got rid of the old crew

Rob Samme: Nothing whatsoever against anyone or their beliefs/sexuality/colour, or gender, but we all have a good idea of the belief/gender/colour of the successful applicant. It makes no difference at all to me, what belief/colour/gender anyone has, but why not just give the job to the best applicant. Although no one will ever match Jeff.

Rachel Christina: Obviously they’ll offer it to the woman to tick their boxes of equality

Brett Cox: Be dead in a couple years like soccer am, everyone watches streams at 3pm now anyway 😂

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