Stelling takes a vowel, a consonant, another vowel…

Jeff Stelling, three times winner of the SJA’s Sports Broadcaster of the Year award for his work on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday programme, has been confirmed as the new host of Channel 4’s flagship afternoon show, Countdown.

The announcement will in some ways further confirm Stelling as one of the leading sports presenters of his generation, succeeding from the likes of Des Lynam, the former Grandstand front man who also had a spell chairing Countdown.

Channel 4 said today that SJA member Stelling would take over in January and be joined by 22-year-old maths graduate Rachel Riley, who was chosen to replace Carol Vorderman.

Stelling replaces Des O’Connor as the fourth host of the programme, which was the first to be broadcast when the channel launched 26 years ago.

Stelling said: “I am delighted to be hosting Countdown and follow in the footsteps of such great broadcasters as Richard Whiteley, Des Lynam and Des O’Connor.”

Stelling’s work each Saturday is widely acclaimed because of his ability to handle more than five hours of live television, co-ordinating the contributions of four ex-footballer pundits, even if he does sometimes let slip his lifelong allegiance to Hartlepool. Although Countdown is recorded, with its five shows each week, it can be equally demanding – Lynam stepped down as host after one year because he found the travelling between his south coast home and the Leeds studios too gruelling.

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