View From The Ninian’s Dan Moffat had the pleasure of walking and talking with one of the faces of Football TV; Mr Jeff Stelling, during his March for Men in aid of Prostate Cancer UK. The Sky Sports presenter was on his third marathon of the week, with this one taking place in South Wales. He started at Rodney Parade, the home of Newport County AFC, before heading towards the Cardiff City Stadium and then onwards to the finish line outside the Principality Stadium.
Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one man dying every 45 minutes from the disease. That’s 11,500 men every year. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Dan joined Jeff and the rest of the walkers from the CCS onwards to the Principality Stadium and here’s what he had to say when asked about the work he does with Prostate Cancer UK, the state of this year’s Championship and all things Cardiff City.
Firstly Jeff, after doing 25 walking marathons in 2016 and 2017, you’re back again. Why?
I must be crackers, but it does get in your blood! To be brutally honest, at the end of the first 10 walking marathons – when I didn’t know what to expect and I was vowing ‘never again’- one of the guys who had one of the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer and was extremely young, said to me at the end of that; ‘Jeff, you can’t stop now. You’ve started and these people need you to do more.’
After that, there was nothing I could do. It kicked my conscience and you just have to try harder. As I say, a lot of the guys here today are walking with an illness that will eventually take their life. The least I can do is try and put one foot in front of each other to raise some awareness and a bit of money.
How important is the work you’re doing in allowing men to not be afraid to speak about prostate cancer in particular?
That’s always been the thing. It’s not the sort of thing that men talk about in football dressing rooms across the country or in local pubs and bars. They just wont talk about it, but they certainly should. It’s the same with men not going to their GP or talking about anything below the waist, but its an attitude we have to change.
I think gradually it is changing. Certainly with the age group up to 50, but they’re the ones who are generally not affected by Prostate Cancer at the moment, so we have to make sure we get the message across to the over 50’s as well.
We’re currently just leaving the Cardiff City ground. What have you made of their start to the season?
It has been a bit up and down really, hasn’t it? I have got a lot of time for Neil Warnock. We go back a hell of a long way and he’s just a fantastic manager. If you want someone to get you out of this division, then it’s certainly him.
But it takes a bit of time to settle after relegation, and there’s no doubt that the big fella walking with us now, Sol Bamba is a massive miss, he’s a wonderful player, and he’ll be back soon which is a fantastic bonus as well. What I would say is that it’s early days and nothing is won or lost at the beginning of the season.
You spoke there about your relationship with Neil Warnock and how much you admire him, so throughout your years of watching football, where does he rank among the football league’s greatest managers?
That’s a great question, but it’s a hard thing to rank. What I do know is he’ll get a tune out of any team. Players will run through brick walls for him, but he’s never had the chance to manage the best, like a lot of English managers they get overlooked for the big jobs.
You know Neil, he’s not the most politically correct when it comes to speaking. He likes to speak his mind regardless of whether other people would agree or not and I think that’s absolutely fantastic. He’s a brilliant motivator and he’s right up there. He has to be. I would have loved for him to have managed my team, Hartlepool. He’s played for them, but I would have loved for him to have managed them.
Do you think Warnock is a dying breed of manager?
I know people think that, I think people look at the Pep Guardiola’s of this world, a genius of course, and the Unai Emery’s and they forget that there’s more than one way to play football. Neil Warnock would play a very different form of football if he was the manager of Manchester City than he does now, that’s for sure, but you cut your cloth and Neil does it brilliantly.
So no, I don’t think it’s a dying breed. I think there will always be really good English managers who bring the best out of a side who, with all due respect, are not a Manchester City or a Liverpool, but he still manages to get the best out of them.
Finally, outside of Cardiff, what do you make of the competition in the Championship this year and who are your favourites for promotion?
I think it’s a weaker division this season, so I would definitely have Cardiff as one of my favourites. Fulham I would have up there too. I love Tom Cairney, I think he’s a fantastic footballer and of course they’ve kept Aleksandar Mitrovic, plus got themselves a couple of really interesting loan signings to give them plenty of depth. Obviously Leeds as well, provided they don’t do what they’ve done over the last few seasons and fade away, especially under Bielsa, so they’re the three sides to beat for me.
Swansea have started brilliantly, and I’m pleased for Steve Cooper, who of course has never managed in the league before. A start like this with a team who I thought would be battling relegation, that’s a phenomenal effort. I know that might not go down well in these parts, but it’s a fantastic start. Whether they can maintain that, I don’t know.
It’s not as strong a division because a lot of the sides who in recent seasons you might have expected to be pushing, such as Derby and Middlesborough who have been close, I don’t think they’re going to be involved at the top end this season. Also, the clubs who have come down, especially Huddersfield, are not going to be a threat either, so it’s definitely a weaker division.