Sky Sports have continued their revamp of the Soccer Saturday panel as pundit Tony Cottee has announced he has been axed from the popular show after 20 years.
The former West Ham and Everton striker took to Twitter on Monday night to reveal that he has been relieved of his duties on the show that sees former players commentate on the untelevised 3pm matches on a Saturday.
Cottee, 56, was famed for being handed matches that ended up resulting in goalless raws and his dismissal comes 12 months after Sky axed Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier from the same show.
In a statement on social media, Cottee said: ‘After 20 years @SkySports, today I was told that I will no longer be on the Soccer Saturday show.
‘I’ve got fantastic memories and had lots of laughs but it’s now time for me to move on and see what the future will bring. It was a privilege to be a part of such a great team…
Tony Cottee has been axed by Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday show in another pundit shake-up
Cottee (front row, right) has joined Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier (back row, left to right) in being sacked by the football programme
‘I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with at Soccer Saturday in that time and a special thanks to all the cameramen and back room staff who have looked after me so well … Perhaps there won’t be so many 0-0’s now ….?!!’
Soccer Saturday, presented by former Countdown host Jeff Stelling, has been running since 1994 with the now-sacked Nicholas, Thompson and Le Tissier joining Paul Merson in the studio as the main pundits until last year.
Cottee was also a regular face on the programme either inside the studio or out at a game alongside the likes of Chris Kamara, Alan McInally and Ian Dowie.
Cottee has been involved with Sky for the past 20 years and revealed he was told of his axe
But Sky announced before the 2020-21 season that Nicholas, Thompson and Le Tissier were axed from the show, provoking a great sadness among programme host Stelling.
‘One of my saddest days ever at Sky Sports with the departure of three of my best mates,’ Stelling tweeted after the decision was made. ‘They have been part of a team that for me was the best.’
Sportsmail revealed last year that host Stelling considered quitting the programme after his three close friends were let go, but stuck with the show last season and is set to take over the reigns once again for the 2021-22 campaign.
The decision to let go the trio was also met with a considerable backlash from football supporters who had grown up watching the trio on their screens for the previous 16 years.
Some fans of the show claimed Thompson, Le Tissier and Nicholas were all axed because they are white men. Popular black pundits Micah Richards and Alex Scott were criticised by some fans in August of last year after they were linked with replacing the trio – even though the pair have not featured on the show since then.
Soccer Saturday sacked Le Tissier (second left), Thompson (second right) and Nicholas (far right) in August 2020 after 16 years on the show
SKY SPORTS’ RECENT SACKINGS
Charlie Nicholas – August 2020
Phil Thompson – August 2020
Matt Le Tissier – August 2020
Scott Minto – August 2020
Tony Cottee – August 2021
Popular football pundit Ian Wright hit out at those blaming the likes of Richards and Scott at the time, saying: ‘The racism is going through the roof today. Can somebody just answer me this: What does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell, Clinton Morrison, or any other black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys?
‘All because three middle-aged white guys have got the sack. I kiss my teeth, say raasclaat and all that sort of stuff. What have they done, what have these guys done?
‘Because a black person or a woman might get the opportunity to do this job. They might get a chance to do this show. Why are people upset?’
Thompson revealed his sadness about being axed in an exclusive interview with Sportsmail earlier this year and claimed there was sadness amongst the show’s audience as well.
He said: ‘It became a way of life, so taking that away…’ he says. ‘I miss it. Yes, I miss it. We were a band of brothers. But you do know that change has to happen.
‘It was three parts of a midfield. The others could have continued.I do think we bridged all the gaps because people grew up with us. We did it for 16 years.
The sacked trio are yet to return to TV punditry but have done stints for Paddy Power
‘Even though people didn’t remember us as players, they knew us as Soccer Saturday. So it was part of their life.’
The trio are yet to return to TV punditry but did star for Paddy Power in a mini-series called ‘Pundits’ where they made regular references to their exit from Soccer Saturday.
Former Arsenal midfielder Merson remained on the programme last season as the lead studio pundit and was joined by the likes of Glen Johnson, Clinton Morrison, Kris Boyd and Sue Smith across the campaign.
As part of a major shake-up by Sky Sports’ football coverage last summer, presenter Scott Minto also revealed he was axed by the company ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Soccer Saturday has continued with host Jeff Stelling (left) and pundit Paul Merson (middle)
The former West Ham and Chelsea defender had been the face of their LaLiga and EFL coverage for 13 years, but was told his services are no longer required just days after the Soccer Saturday trio were let go.
Cotte, meanwhile, made his name in the football world as a striker and scored 115 goals for West Ham over two spells in the 1980s and 1990s.
He also netted 72 times in 184 games for Everton, while he was capped seven times by England between 1986 and 1989 – but failed to find the net for his country.
Cottee also represented Leicester, Norwich, Birmingham, Barnet and Millwall in English football, while he also had a short spell at Malaysian side Selangor in the 1996-7 season.