Soccer Saturday is on for hours. How do you maintain your stamina?
By eating very quickly! I cram in sandwiches during the ad breaks. Matt Le Tissier always has a supply of chips, while Charlie Nicholas has his customary two yoghurts on the go.
Do you still do your research for the show at Winchester services on the M3?
Not any more. Now the kids are all at school, I can do my preparation in my office at home, overlooking the Hampshire countryside. I then chat through the week’s football with our regular pundits [Matt, Charlie, Paul Merson and Phil Thompson] in the hotel bar the night before.
For large parts of the show we’re watching you watching them watching television. Who is the hardest to keep in order?
You have to be careful of Phil Thompson. On Friday in the bar he’ll have really strident views about the topic of the day, then on live TV he’ll tell you the opposite. So you have to be a bit canny about what you take into the programme.
The show has a cult following. Where’s the oddest place you’ve been collared by a fan?
Halfway up Kilimanjaro. I was doing a charity climb and one of the porters introduced himself and said he watched Soccer Saturday every week in Tanzania. He was called Filbert and was a big Liverpool fan. He said if I started to flag, he’d carry me up. Thankfully, he didn’t have to.
Who would be your fantasy guest pundit?
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger. In his press conferences, journalists fire questions at him about football, world affairs, the economy – and he always has an answer. He’d be fantastic.
Who was your own commentary hero?
I always loved the great radio football commentators, Bryan Butler and Peter Jones. But my big hero was Des Lynam. Although my frenetic style is a million miles from his laconic delivery, he was nevertheless an absolute inspiration to me.
Is there anything you hate about football?
The game’s version of Strictly, where players wrap their arms around each other in the penalty area. At dead-ball situations, movement and intelligent runs are key, but forwards are unable to make them because big hairy defenders have their arms around them. It should be an instant penalty. I wish refs would clamp down on it.
Would you be any good on Strictly?
Funnily enough, it has been suggested to me. When I was 18 I learnt to ballroom dance as a pretty unsubtle way of meeting girls. I’ve forgotten everything. But sadly, Strictly takes place in the winter during the football season.
As a former Countdown presenter, what’s the quickest you’ve ever done the conundrum?
I could always do the maths and the word games but I had a real blind spot when it came to the conundrum. In three years I solved three of them.
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