Matt Le Tissier says it is “time to look forward to life’s next challenge” after being axed along with Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas by Sky Sports. It has been reported the decision to part company with the trio of Soccer Saturday studio pundits is part of cost-cutting measures as the broadcaster faces up to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Sky statement said: “We are changing some parts of our football coverage – Matt, Charlie and Phil have done a great job for us over the years, and they will leave us with our sincere thanks and very best wishes.”
The former Southampton striker Le Tissier, capped eight times by England in the mid-1990s, announced his departure from Sky on Twitter. He wrote: “Enjoyed my time at sky sports, time to look forward to life’s next challenge, thank you for the support down the years and special thanks to the backroom team which include CazzaEccles CarlyBassett tvtrevstats amongst many others, good luck all have a lovely day.”
Soccer Saturday’s presenter, Jeff Stelling, also used Twitter to confirm former Arsenal forward Paul Merson would remain on the programme. But he added: “One of my saddest days ever at Sky Sports with the departure of three of my best mates. They have been part of a team that for me was the best.”
Thompson has been part of Sky’s football coverage for nearly a quarter of a century, the Liverpool captain fulfilling the punditry role full time after leaving his position as the Reds’ assistant manager in 2004. He said on Twitter: “I’ve had a great 22 years with SkySports. Enjoyed every minute with some amazing people on the show and behind the scenes which made it the iconic show it is today. Good luck to Sky, Jeff, Merse and the new gang on SoccerSaturday.”
As well as being regulars on the Soccer Saturday goals show, Le Tissier, Thompson and the former Scotland, Celtic and Arsenal forward Nicholas often featured on the Sky Sports News channel to discuss hot topics and breaking news.
Ian Wright, himself a prominent pundit, hit out at what the former Arsenal striker described as the racism he had seen on social media in reaction to who may replace the trio on Sky. “What does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell, Clinton Morrison or any other black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys?” Wright said in a video on Twitter.
“What have these guys done? Because a black person or woman might get the opportunity to do this job. Why are people upset?
“These guys, Matt Le Tissier, Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson have had an unbelievable run, it has been a great show. This happens to everyone in the industry. This is Sky’s decision to evolve the show and I wish them all the very best.”