You’re doing your March for Men again this year – from St James’ Park in Exeter to St James’ Park in Newcastle for Prostate Cancer UK. What got you interested in working with that particular charity?
Prostate cancer is not discerning. It doesn’t just hit the bad guys; it’s the good guys as well. But one man in eight in the UK is affected by prostate cancer, so it was inevitable that I would know people that were affected by it. Everybody must know somebody who suffers from prostate cancer. I have known Bill Arthur and Eddie Hemmings longer than I care to remember. They’re both big rugby league men and both great guys who have suffered from prostate cancer.
What sort of training have you been doing to prepare?
The best training for me was last year, when I got to experience the process every single day. Getting up, walking, going to bed, then getting up the next day and doing it again. I was battered and beaten, but my body adapted. I wouldn’t say I sprung out of bed on day six, but I remember distinctly getting up and feeling fresh. This time round I have five extra days – that’s the problem with suggesting linking up two clubs that play at St James’ Park; 400 miles sounds very daunting and my feet are feeling it already!
How will you celebrate when you’re finished?
A pint and a steak! That was my formula at the end of every day last year, and it worked well so I’m sticking to it.
Most people will know you from Soccer Saturday. What path did your career take before you began presenting the show?
I’ve been at Sky since 1992, and before Soccer Saturday in its current incarnation, I anchored Sports Saturday. We never thought for a minute it would last more than one or two seasons but people tell me they have grown up with it. Hopefully it’s got plenty of legs in it yet.
It must take some practice to be able to keep track of so many games over the course of an afternoon.
A huge amount of my working week is spent preparing for the weekend, and I’ve worked closely with a statistician called Trevor Simmons for many years to make sure what I present is factually correct. He will provide me with packs of statistics. It’s my job to study them and learn them and decide what I want to take out of them.
Do you still live in the North East or visit regularly?
No. I live in the South now, but get up as often as I can – I’m proud of my roots and still have family up North. People probably wouldn’t know this, but until last year I’d never done a reporter feature outside the studio for Soccer Saturday. But I did one about my March for Men last year. It was a real privilege to walk down memory lane and chat about growing up in Hartlepool, from the sea front, to my first house and the brewery responsible for many pints sunk. And of course Victoria Park. I first stood there with my sister when I was about seven. I’ll be back to the North East in June, and I’m really looking forward to that. At the end of such an epic challenge I couldn’t think of a better place to inspire me.
Where are some of your favourite places to visit in the North East?
Aside from Hartlepool’s Victoria Park? Newcastle city centre, High Force, Sedgefield Racecourse and Seaton Carew beach.
Do you have any favourite restaurants in the North East?
Tough one: there are lots of really good places to eat in the North East, but the food is great at Crathorne Hall in Yarm.
Jeff’s March for Men starts on 2 June at St James’ Park, Exeter and finishes on
16 June at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
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