Jeff Stelling has admitted he feared Soccer Saturday colleague Chris Kamara had become the latest former footballer to have developed dementia prior to being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid.
The duo have been leading figures on the Saturday afternoon programme for nearly 20 years, and have experienced many memorable moments while reporting on action around the country.
But Stelling, 66, admits he became extremely concerned when Kamara began to fail to demonstrate the lively, energetic reporting that has come to encapsulate his time on the show.
Jeff Stelling (centre) has admitted he feared Soccer Saturday colleague Chris Kamara (not pictured) had developed dementia
Kamara (above) has since been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism
His speech had slowed down and the 63-year-old appeared more tired than usual, leading Stelling to fear he had developed an early form of dementia before an underactive thyroid – or hypothyroidism – was diagnosed last month.
‘I had no idea what was wrong, although I was obviously aware Kammy wasn’t himself,’ Stelling told The Sun.
‘You didn’t need to be very observant to notice he just wasn’t the same Kammy we’ve come to know and love over the years – someone extroverted, bubbly, sharp and who would stop you in your tracks.
‘I knew there was something wrong and I thought it might be the onset of some early form of dementia caused by heading balls throughout his football career.
But Stelling noticed Kamara was no longer delivering the same lively, energetic reporting
‘There are so many former players suffering from that now.
‘So I know Kammy was relieved when the problem was diagnosed and we were all relieved too.’
Kamara – famous for saying ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ and a comedic interchange with Stelling while reporting at Portsmouth in 2010 – is now having his condition treated with medication.
Stelling also hopes Kamara can will him on his charity walk in the summer when he will take part in four marathons in different regions of the country in four days in August and September in support of Prostate Cancer UK.
Kamara said last month he knew something was wrong when his wife Anne grew concerned when he couldn’t remember information about his own album on The One Show.
Kamara is infamous for having a comedic interchange with Stelling while reporting at Portsmouth in 2010
Kamara had a brain scan and a blood test after fears had grown that he had developed dementia, which in turn revealed his current condition.
‘I was on with Alex Jones and Michael Ball, I did the menu for the show live and not a problem,’ he said last month.
‘Michael talked to me about the Christmas album and said “Name some of the songs” and my mind had gone completely blank and I couldn’t think of anything.
‘That was the first time my wife said to me, ”There’s something not quite right, you need to get it checked out”.
‘What I’m suffering with is a swollen tongue, which causes you to slur your words. It slows down, not your thoughts, your thoughts are there but transferring those thoughts to the mouth, to talk coherently.’
Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton has been at the heart of our campaign to tackle dementia
Sportsmail meanwhile launched a campaign in November last year to have football’s dementia scandal properly addressed and those in charge held to account.
Columnist Chris Sutton, whose father Mike also played football professionally and died of dementia in December, has been at the heart of our fight for change.
The former Norwich City, Celtic and Blackburn striker broke down in tears as he told BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent that his father had forgotten how to use a pen, such was the impact of the disease.
‘He used to write a diary. And then one day he picked a pen up and he didn’t know how to use it,’ Sutton said during the emotional interview last month.
The 48-year-old is pushing for lawmakers to change the current rules on concussion substitutes.
Sutton was one of those who put his name to a letter sent to the DCMS committee last month calling for the PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor to be quizzed.
Written by John Stiles, the son of late 1966 World Cup hero Nobby, it urged MPs to quiz Taylor and claimed the PFA had let their members down, describing the organisation as a ‘byword for scandal and cronyism’.
Sutton then berated MPs when Taylor was asked about the European Super League rather than grilling him about dementia in football.