He's famous for being Sky Sports' voice of football on a Saturday afternoon, bringing millions of viewers a multitude of scores all without breaking stride or sweat.

And Jeff Stelling's love for his home-town club Hartlepool United is well-documented, not least when he's presenting Soccer Saturday and Pools score or get a great result.

But as a man who has hosted the Football League Awards and presented coverage of Football League games on Sky, he knows just what qualities The League has to offer both on and off the field.

"It's fantastic, and I'll tell you what, the last two Saturdays when a lot of Football League games have been off Soccer Saturday has really suffered," Jeff said in conversation with www.football-league.co.uk.

"The leagues are so exciting without exception. On a Saturday I can get as wrapped up in League 2 as I can with the Premier League.

"It's the envy of every nation in the world to have such a level of football throughout the leagues that is so superbly supported.

"You can go to a Football League game and the feel of it is completely different to a Premier League game. It's a bit of a throwback to 30 years in some ways because fans can relate to each other, they get on and appreciate each other's problems, and they can still get within touching distance of the players.

"Fans just feel a bigger part of the experience and I love it.

"Clubs are run like extended families and within the Football League Awards you will see recognition given to backroom staff, names who to be honest even some of the relatively close fans won't know or appreciate quite what they do.

"I know at my club if you want to go and talk to the Chief Executive on a matchday he's there, he'll stand and have a chat with supporters, and you can't do that in the Premier League.

"It's a different beast, even though it's the same game, because the infrastructure is so different and in every way as a fan you feel more a part of your club.

"A Rochdale supporter will feel a hell of a lot more involved with Rochdale than, say, an Arsenal or Chelsea fan will feel with their club."

And it's not only that family feel that Jeff enjoys when it comes to acknowledging everything that is good about The League.

On the field, Jeff feels the standard of play is increasing all the time and he is pleased to see many players making the step up to the Premier League with ease.

"It's always tremendously competitive and you do get some fantastic football in there. The Championship is a good example as there are some terrific players," he continued.

"What we have seen that is really pleasing is the number of players who have gone up from the Football League and then proved that they are the business in terms of Premier League football.

"All you've got to do is look at Norwich City. The obvious example is Grant Holt, who has scored in every division, then there's Anthony Pilkington and Steve Morison who were playing non-League football in the past and yet they can come up and make the grade in the Premier League and look really comfortable.

"That is just an indication of what the quality is like throughout the leagues.

"I always think that when there are no Premier League games, fans should go and see a Football League game because a lot would be surprised, not just by the effort and the commitment but the skill levels too.

"I think Premier League fans would appreciate their local League side."

Jeff's local League side is, of course, his beloved Hartlepool, and on a Saturday afternoon - and now midweek when he's presenting Sky's Champions League coverage - it's the scoreline he's keeping his eyes open for the most.

Jeff doesn't hide his support for Pools so viewers of Soccer Saturday will know what to expect when his side are in action, as do his colleagues who are providing reports from other matches. He doesn't hold back, even going so far as to bring out a signing James Brown doll when the Hartlepool player of the same name is on the scoresheet!

Jeff spoke to www.football-league.co.uk in the hours leading up to Hartlepool's visit to Preston North End, a match that coincides with his duties as the front-man for the return of the Champions League.

"I am doing the Champions League show tonight so we'll have a feed of the matches but I'll also have the iPad there so I can get Sports Special on and get the scores. If you've got a club you follow, it's always the one you look out for," he said.

"People know what to expect from me now so they will know if we score I'll be ecstatic, if we're losing I'll be gloomy, and the other boys will always take the mickey out of me.

"On the odd occasion we get a feed of the match [during Soccer Saturday] when there are FA Cup ties on, and this year we got one when we played Rochdale and Matt Le Tissier was watching it so we were all sat together.

"Having been very sceptical he watched it and said "your lot are not half bad". We won the game 2-0.

"I've still got the doll, though James - the player himself, not the doll - has had terrible injury problems so we haven't seen too much of him.

"He did score one of the goals and the doll was by my side but it was that long since I'd used it I was out of practice, so Phil Thompson reminded me!"

Work commitments have limited Jeff's opportunities to go and watch Hartlepool of late, and last season was the first since childhood that he wasn't able to get to a single match due to his regular stints on Sky, then landing the Champions League role, plus at the time he was presenting Countdown.

This season he hasn't yet been able to see a match either, and even the fixture list hasn't been kind to him as even on the rare days off from his working schedule games have been difficult to get to - with not a single away trip in the south falling on a convenient date.

But despite all of that, Jeff's passion for the club never wavers and he keeps up to date with events from Victoria Park as often as he can do.

It's a passion that won't die for the 56-year-old, who has supported Hartlepool since childhood.

"It's my home town, I was fortunate enough to work for the local paper there after watching them when I was a kid and when I started in my journalistic career I covered them so I got to know the inner workings of the club," he said.

"I've seen managers, chairmen and players come and go, and because we've never really had any success over the years what happens is when you occasionally get those little nuggets you treasure them even more.

"When you do get to a final or win promotion, or you do beat a Premier League side - we beat Stoke City in the FA Cup a few seasons ago - these are the things you never forget and you hold on to them forever.

"Let's be honest, if you're a Manchester United fan you've won title after title, famous win after famous win, and you can't be expected to treasure them all."

Hartlepool - under their original guise of Hartlepools United - were original members of the Third Division (North) upon its inception in 1921 but the club has never been beyond the third tier of English football.

The closest they came was in 2005 when they were beaten in the League 1 Play-Off final by Sheffield Wednesday, one of many memories Jeff has of life as a Pools fan.

"I remember the Sheffield Wednesday fans saying 'it is a great day for you because you're a small club, just getting here was the aim," but no it wasn't," said Jeff.

"It turned out to be a great occasion but it was a miserable outcome so I remember that one for the wrong reasons.

"One I do remember was an FA Cup tie at Sheffield United in the 1990s, they were in the Premier League at the time.

"We stood on the terraces that day and Hartlepool went toe to toe with them and although we lost 1-0, it was a fantastic occasion.

"Going right back there are things like the days in the 1960s under Brian Clough when we had a strike partnership of Ernie Pythian and Jimmy Mulvaney, who absolutely tore defences apart.

"Then there were occasions like going to Darlington, our local rivals, and winning there, particularly if it was a night game.

"We would get the train across to Darlington then we'd be escorted to Feethams where you'd have to walk around the cricket pitch to get to the football ground!

"Hartlepool fans are like any fans really. In some respects they're a small bunch but they're hugely dedicated.

"The north-east is a bit of a depressed area and jobs are hard to come by at the moment but to keep travelling away from home when we haven't got a local derby, Carlisle is 90 miles away and that's the nearest, they've got to dig into their pockets.

"Over the years they have been rewarded with so little success so I think they are a tremendously dedicated bunch."

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