Soccer AM star Rocket has said he ‘doubts’ the cult show could have continued in the current climate because people ‘get offended too easily’ – after it emerged the programme was being axed after almost 30 years.
The Saturday morning football staple is set to be shelved as part of a drastic Sky Sports shake-up, with staff reportedly told yesterday it was to wrap up at the end of the current season.
Fans have complained about Sky’s decision to axe the series, with one accusing the broadcaster of overseeing an ‘ultra woke’ regime that jarred with the programme’s freewheeling and sometimes controversial approach.
Rocket, who was on the show from 1998 to 2017, said he and his fellow presenters delighted in ‘pushing the boundaries’ and recalled being regularly summoned by bosses ‘for something that had been inappropriate or he pushed it too far’.
‘Sadly I don’t know if that show can exist now because if there’s a reason to complain about something, generally someone will. They’ll take offence,’ he told The Sun. ‘There’s so much you could have taken offence at. We pushed it to the line a lot of the time.’
Rocket, who was on the show from 1998 to 2017, said he and his fellow presenters delighted in ‘pushing the boundaries’
Helen Chamberlain (left) and Tim Lovejoy (right) were among the early hosts in the late 1990s
Soccer AM regular Chris Kamara lamented the show’s demise yesterday
But he insisted him and his colleagues’ antics were always ‘tongue in cheek’ and said what really attracted viewers was the chance for some light-hearted escapism.
‘We were a bunch of blokes just messing about on a Saturday morning,’ he added. ‘I think all we wanted to do was make people smile.’
Soccer AM regular Chris Kamara lamented the show’s demise yesterday, tweeting: ‘Just heard that @SoccerAM is finishing at the end of the season.
‘I had 14 years of going through Premier League & @EFL clubs dressing rooms. Training with Clubs for features & basically having a laugh.
‘Fun part of my time at Sky.’
PR experts have said that the programme – which was first broadcast in 1992 during the height of the ‘Lads’ Mag’ era – could no longer compete in the way it once had due to change in public attitudes.
Fans complained today about Sky’s decision to axe the series, with one accusing the broadcaster of overseeing an ‘ultra woke’ regime that jarred with the programme’s freewheeling and sometimes controversial approach.
It had been forced to drop some of the more well-known features that made it such a hit with viewers, including the ‘Soccerettes’ segment, which involved young models and actresses appearing in a football shirt.
It was pulled in 2015 after it triggered claims that they were being exploited or mocked by the ‘laddish banter’.
The show also saw an exodus of popular presenters who fronted the show and made it such a success, such as Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain.
Experts cited the impact of YouTube too, with viewers switching to social media sites to watch the sort of the jokes and skits similar to those performed on the programme.
PR guru Mark Borkowski, told MailOnline: ‘Quite simply it ran out of steam.
‘It was very iconic in its day but gradually they have really lost the impact after the departure of stars like Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain, who really started it and made it a huge success.
The show made stars of the presenting teams – including popular figure Peter ‘Tubes’ Dale, who is still working on the show full-time. Starting as an assistant producer, he soon became a regular – helped by comical appearances and a cult following
The Soccer AM Soccerette was a – now outdated – feature of the show where a young woman modelling a football shirt would appear
‘There has been a lack of promotion of the programme and it has lacked any energy and become quite tired.
‘It’s had to tone down from the Lads’ Mag era because times are now different.
‘If people are not watching it, it’s because that sort of irreverence is being done by YouTubers now.
‘A lot of celebrities as well are frightened of going into a space – like Soccer AM was – which had a bit of a brash and laddish reputation in case there is backlash.
‘There is also a lot more competition now, so people have a lot more options if they don’t like it any more.
‘It’s of an age where it can’t be what it wants to be.’
The Sun claimed that bosses have made the decision to axe the popular Saturday morning show, with ten episodes left before it is taken off screens.
The show had a number of controversial segments, which were either toned down or dropped
The soccerette was frequently asked innuendo-strewn questions including about relationships
The dated elements of the show have been blamed for its demise as YouTubers create similar content
Soccerettes shown red card back in 2015
The Soccer AM Soccerette feature was axed in 2015 over its questionable content.
In the segment a woman wearing their team’s football shirt would be cheered on by male guests and audience.
During the section the male host would be asked innuendo-strewn questions including their relationship status.
Hollyoaks’ Jennifer Metcalfe, page three model Lucy Pinder and actress Gemma Atkinson were among some of the famous soccerettes who appeared.
Natalie Sawyer, who worked for Sky Sports, appeared a few times showing off her support for Brentford.
A source told the newspaper that morale is ‘at an all-time low’ following the ‘bombshell’ announcement which has left staff, who are now facing redundancy in May, ‘raging’.
Saturday Social, which was previously shown before Soccer AM, is reportedly going to fill the vacant slot from next season with an aim of targeting younger viewers.
Soccer AM had proven to be a huge hit for Sky.
The 90-minute football comedy show includes a variety of segments as well as sitdowns with some of the game’s biggest players and managers.
Russ Williams and Helen Chamberlain were the original hosts, before Lovejoy replaced Williams two years in.
Lovejoy, who hosted it through until 2007 before being succeeded by Andy Goldstein, and later Max Rushden, would regularly cause havoc in one of the many segments he came up with.
At one stage he was offering £5 to any fan who turned up at a match with a ‘Lovejoy is a Legend’ banner.
However, that was soon abandoned as banners appeared at multiple games and his costs were piling up.
The car park game, fans of the week and the Soccerette were among the most notable segments.
Dale also had a regular spot on the programme where he could ask only one question to the studio guests.
He would pose his inquiry, usually a comedic one, before shaking his subject’s hand and walking off.
Veteran Hollyoaks star Jennifer Metcalfe appeared on the Soccerettes section of the show
Gemma Atkinson was also from the soap and took part in the now-cancelled feature
Lucy Pinder, a glamour model and former page three girl, was also a guest on the programme
Chantelle Houghton, who won Celebrity Big Brother, was also featured at the height of fame
More recent iterations of the show have been hosted by John Fendley, who got involved in 2015 when Rushden left, and former Hull City and Wigan Athletic midfielder Jimmy Bullard, who started in 2017.
Speaking to the Athletic in 2020, Lovejoy revealed: ‘I stopped watching it [the programme] when I left, it was too hard to watch it.
‘I tune in every now and then because Fenners is on it and I want to support him. Again, another crap analogy, it’s like watching your old girlfriend with another man.
‘I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch it. So I stopped watching it totally. And then I started tuning in again to watch Fenners, because obviously I worked with him for years and he’s a top bloke.
The football show is set to be shelved after almost 30 years as part of a drastic Sky Sports shake-up
The show was accused of having a bawdy atmosphere, which in modern times has dated
The most recent version has had Jimmy Bullard (second left) and John Fendley as the hosts
Lovejoy and Chamberlain were huge successes as the show became a must watch
‘It’s too hard for me because I watch it all and I want to join in with it. I’d really like to input on the show and put stuff on there and I find it too hard.’
Soccer AM went on to become the first live show on Sky to have to go on a broadcast delay due to lewd references and swearing. What started as a three-second delay soon became ten seconds.
Sky Sports’ schedule has been subject to drastic change in recent years, with shake-ups to their presenters or shows not uncommon.
Max Rushden partnered Chamberlain from 2008 as the show had huge ratings at one point
Jimmy Bullard interviewed Paul Gascoigne in one of the most recently shown show episodes
SOCCER AM HOSTS THROUGH THE YEARS
Russ Williams (1995–96)
Helen Chamberlain (1995–2017)
Tim Lovejoy (1996–2007)
Andy Goldstein (2007–08)
Max Rushden (2008–2015)
Lloyd Griffith (2017–2019)
John Fendley (2015–present)
Jimmy Bullard (2017–present)
Back in 2020 the decision was made to scrap Sunday Supplement, a morning debate show with newspaper journalists about football’s biggest stories.
Soon after Goals on Sunday, a highlights show with Ben Shephard and Chris Kamara, and The Debate, were shelved.
A Sky spokesman, who spoke to the Sun, said: ‘Soccer AM has played an important role in our coverage of football for the past three decades, and we continually adapt to the evolving needs of our customers.
‘We now go into a period of consultation to discuss the proposed changes with our people.
‘We are unable to provide more detail while these consultations are underway.’
One iconic Soccer AM feature was their ‘Skill Skool’, which showcased the skills of young footballers.
Among those to feature in the segment in their younger years was Chelsea star Raheem Sterling, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and West Ham striker Danny Ings.
Soccer AM is finished, but they changed football programming forever in their 30 year run: From Third Eye to Save Chip, giving birth to the ‘EASY’ chants and even Tim Lovejoy strutting the catwalk, here are the BEST BITS from their fun-filled run
Dan Ripley for MailOnline
Soccer AM has fallen but following the show’s cancellation the best of its product will live long in the memory as part of a major impact on UK football culture.
Across 30 years the show changed just about everything to adapt to the zeitgeist it found itself in, but it was also known for essentially producing memes long before social media or even the internet was a key factor in the spread of viral football content.
The programme was chaotic, raw and often littered with mistakes but its rough edge and laid back attitude was the perfect way to kick off a weekend at its peak.
While some of the sketches were huge misses there were plenty of hits along the way that continued right up until its cancellation.
Here Sportsmail looks at the best of them from down the years.
One of the earliest features from the show was the Save Chip feature – which to many outside of the show’s following would have caused massive confusion.
I mean, who is Chip? Why does he need saving? And how comes he has such a big following?
The origins of it were from presenter Tim Lovejoy’s friend called ‘Chip’ and casually mentioning how he couldn’t watch as much football as he wanted to due to a hectic homelife.
It took just weeks before it became a huge hit of a story and an on-running gag.
Supporters were often seen pinning up ‘Save Chip’ banners at football grounds while producers of the show would also end up finding the material as far out as Ashes cricket matches in Australia.
It was a classic case of football related content going viral in the 1990s well before the internet boom. It even appeared on a Football Manager game and an episode of Eastenders.
‘Save Chip’ banners were often seen around many football grounds in the early 2000s
‘Easy, Easy, Easy’
Another football viral of its time. And yet it was such a simple design – consisting of just one word on repeat.
Yet it caught on heavily. There were plenty of football grounds up and down the country in the late 2000s where when a team went 2-0… or even 1-0 up the chant of ‘easy, easy, easy’ would soon follow.
But that too spread out away from football. Soccer AM fans soon ensured darts venues would become embroiled with the chant, while even Jeff Stelling on Soccer Saturday couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment when his beloved Hartlepool United would grab a lead.
It wasn’t all just small references gaining a massive following, some of Soccer AM’s best content was educational as well as entertainingly fun, silly and downright bonkers at times.
Take ‘Franky Fryer’ and the ‘Away Days’ segment. From week to week dressed in that same brown anorak, jeans and far too much jewellery, Franky would go from ground to ground describing historical elements of the stadium, the club that played for and maybe even the region in general – all with a cockney accent.
It sounds ridiculous, and it often was, but it was damn funny too, especially as the character’s actor Adam Smith would often play the role with huge exaggeration and over the top mannerisms like a child hyped up on lemonade.
It would often conclude with Fryer saying ‘I know what time it is, you know what time it is’ before spewing out a diatribe of fast-talking rambling, where a local or well-known contributor would chime in with a well timed word or two.
The bit was a send of actor Danny Dyer’s own documentary series The Real Football Factories , and boy did it work. So much so that the Eastenders and Football Factory star even appeared alongside ‘Fryer’ to cover his beloved West Ham.
The hyper cockney character called ‘Franky Fryer’ featured often as part of ‘Away Days’
Tim Lovejoy strutts on the catwalk
Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain were key to the show’s success and presented the show together from 1996 through to Lovejoy’s departure in 2007.
One of Lovejoy’s (many) lasting impacts on the show though lived on well past his exit, including his strutt up and down the catwalk where guests would feature.
It was simple enough, and borderline dad-dancing but everyone was doing it and Lovejoy himself couldn’t help but look back fondly on the dance on Twitter recently.
He said: ‘Hands up if you’re keeping this dance alive’
Tim Lovejoy (pictured at Glastonbury in 2008) and his team produced a popular segment with the annual dance-off
Now any small thing that can happen at a sporting event an be picked up in a second on social media and be on everyone’s phone within minutes.
After all, it only takes an eagle-eyed viewer to spot something unusual and as long as they have a smartphone, it’s instant video content that can be enjoyed by many.
Soccer AM though had all of these already down to a tee with it’s ‘Third Eye’ feature, where they would take clips from football matches and spot the quirky elements of it you may have missed while watching it live – or if it was broadcast to the public at all.
Some of the classics included Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan scaring boss Sir Alex Ferguson by popping a stray balloon during a Manchester United game at Chelsea. Another also saw Rafa Benitez appear to spawn a Sky Sports graphic simply by making a tactical gesture with his hand.
A very popular long running feature of the show and with good reason – it was brilliant TV.
Not only did it show that even the best technical players could make fools of themselves on camera, but it would also give an unsung hero at the club the potential to look like a genius within the same timeframe.
The premise was simple. Turn up at a team’s training ground and offer a team’s stars the chance to hit the crossbar from the halfway line. The teams clearly loved the element as well and it was often amusing to see their cackled laughter or group celebration pile-on depending on whether their team-mate fired one onto the nearest motorway or even minorly clipped the underside of the bar.
There was always at least one person that managed to do it, and often even some of the biggest names got it wrong. Looking back now it can be amusing to see that Chelsea’s Kevin De Bruyne was absolutely useless at it. No wonder Jose Mourinho sold him…
Kevin De Bruyne didn’t fare well on the crossbar challenge during his Chelsea days
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk