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Tributes have poured in for Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling following his final Soccer Saturday show.

The 68-year-old marked his departure with an emotional farewell – which included the revelation that he had received a surprise phone call from Elton John.

Stelling said he was left “starstruck” when the legendary singer – once the owner of Watford football club – rang him at home to wish him well ahead of his final Soccer Saturday appearance.

“Elton John rang me this week,” Stelling said.

“Someone asked me the other day if I have ever been starstruck, and yeah… I was starstruck when Elton John rang me at home to say ‘thank you very much for all you have done’.

“He (Elton) said to me: ‘Every week I watch the show and every week you tell me Watford are losing, and every week you tell me Hartlepool (the team Stelling supports) are losing – so I feel like we are kindred spirits’.”

Following a celebratory montage and round of applause at the end of Sunday’s Soccer Special programme, Stelling joked: “Thanks for the applause. I mean this is tricky because I’ve changed my mind.”

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Stelling paid tribute to all those who work on the show, including the call centre staff, runners, production crew and commentators.

He said: “It’s a team game.”

Stelling said his time at Sky had been “absolutely wonderful”.

He added: “It’s been the best job that anybody could possibly wish for.

“My wife Lizzie takes great pleasure in saying ‘you’re the luckiest man ever to take a breath’. And you know what, I don’t tell her this often but she’s right.”

Stelling ended the show by paying tribute to the viewers for their incredible support.

Jeff Stelling has worked his final Soccer Saturday
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Jeff Stelling has worked his final Soccer Saturday

Stelling last month announced his intention to step down after more than 30 years at Sky and 25 years at the helm of the flagship football results show.

He said it was the “right time” to move on and give Sky Sports viewers a break from his “relentless rants, bad gags and over-the-top celebrations of Hartlepool United goals”.

Well-wishers took to social media to pay tribute.

Son Robbie posted: “Well done dad, so proud of you.

“You’ve put your heart and soul into the show and have no doubt left a mark on more than just the world of football.

“As a father and broadcaster, you have taught me so much about football and life.

“You are the best there has ever been.”

Piers Morgan tweeted: “Very few people get to leave a long-running job in TV whilst still at the absolute peak of their powers – but Jeff Stelling just did it.

“Thanks for all the fun, excitement, entertainment and incredible professionalism, Jeff – you’ll be greatly missed.”

Former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes tweeted: “Jeff Stelling… Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life. You have never worked. You are The Goat. Respect. Enjoy the next chapter.”

LBC presenter Iain Dale thanked Stelling for “hours and hours of tremendous sports broadcasting”.

He added: “Few people should ever be described as ‘total legends’ but Jeff really is one. Every football fan’s best friend.”

FootballJOE posted: “Twenty-five years of some of the best laughs on telly. Thanks for being the voice and face of football on a Saturday.”

Hartlepool United wished fan Stelling “all the best”, adding: “Our local hero.”

FC Halifax Town joked: “All the best in your retirement. You’re always welcome to Halifax vs Hartlepool next season, we will try not to call it off twice this time.”

NFL UK said “congrats on an incredible stint”, declaring: “You’ll be missed from our screens.”

On Friday, Prostate Cancer UK thanked Stelling for wearing the charity’s badge for the past eight seasons.

A spokesperson added: “You have shared our message to millions of football fans, many of whom have been at risk of prostate cancer.”

Stelling’s charity football march for Prostate Cancer UK will take place this September.

Jeff Stelling to march from Wycombe to Wembley for Prostate Cancer UK - Adams Park
Jeff Stelling poses for the media at Adams Park, Wycombe. Picture date: Monday March 13, 2023
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Jeff Stelling’s Football March for Prostate Cancer UK will take place later this year

TV presenter Chris Kamara also posted an early tribute, describing Stelling as the “best broadcaster” he has ever met.

In the post on Thursday, he said: “I am getting my tribute in early because Jeff has been a massive part of my life and I love him to bits.

“One of the things I do miss is working with the maestro. There will never be another. You are ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ – and always will be.”

Stelling joined Sky in 1992. He was also the main host for the broadcaster’s live Champions League coverage between 2011 and 2015.

He previously announced plans to leave Soccer Saturday at the end of the 2021/22 campaign but stayed for another season.

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Stelling announcing his decision to step down

Gary Hughes, Sky Sports’ director of football, previously said: “Jeff has been synonymous with Saturday afternoon football for decades, exciting and enthusing football fans everywhere.

“His unique broadcasting ability and passion for the game has made Soccer Saturday an unmissable fixture for fans and has won him a multitude of awards.

“He will be sorely missed.”

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Bardia Shojaeifard: Boy, 15, jailed for murder of Alfie Lewis in knife attack outside school in Leeds

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Bardia Shojaeifard: Boy, 15, jailed for murder of Alfie Lewis in knife attack outside school in Leeds

A 15-year-old boy who had a “worrying interest in knives” has been jailed for life – with a minimum of 13 years behind bars – for stabbing another teenager to death on the way home from school.

Bardia Shojaeifard was named for the first time today by a judge shortly before he was sentenced for the murder of Alfie Lewis, also 15.

Alfie was stabbed to death in front of pupils leaving a primary school in the Horsforth area of Leeds last November.

The court heard Shojaeifard – who was 14 at the time of the murder – was an “outwardly normal” boy.

He admitted stabbing Alfie with a 13cm-long knife he had brought from home, but denied murder and claimed he was acting in self-defence when he pulled out the blade.

Alfie Lewis
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Alfie Lewis

Shojaeifard was found guilty of murdering Alfie by a Leeds Crown Court jury in April.

Mr Justice Cotter removed reporting restrictions that prevented him from being identified on Friday.

He said lifting the defendant’s anonymity would help in the “vitally important debate about the scourge of knife crime, among young people in particular”.

A picture recovered from the phone of Bardia Shojaeifard shows him posing with a knife.
Pic: West Yorkshire Police
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A picture recovered from the phone of Bardia Shojaeifard shows him posing with a knife. Pic: West Yorkshire Police

A picture recovered from the phone of Bardia Shojaeifard shows him posing with a knife.
Pic: West Yorkshire Police
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Pic: West Yorkshire Police

Mr Justice Cotter said the public would be wondering how a young boy “from a loving and supportive family” could commit such an “extraordinary” crime “without forewarning or any warning signs save for some pictures of knives on his phone”.

Alfie was stabbed twice – with a chest wound penetrating his heart and causing “catastrophic bleeding”, West Yorkshire Police said.

He was pronounced dead in hospital a short time later.

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Eyewitnesses had said Shojaeifard had approached Alfie and attacked him without provocation – with the victim trying to back away.

Alfie was heard saying “chill out” and “what are you doing?” as Shojaeifard swung at him with the knife.

The attacker later ran off and left the knife near the scene, and was arrested at his home about an hour later.

Detectives believe Shojaeifard had been carrying the kitchen knife all day, and had intended to seek Alfie at home time.

Leeds Crown Court had heard that there had been two previous incidents involving both boys – including one last July that saw Alfie intervene in a fight Shojaeifard was having with another boy.

A week before the deadly attack – on Halloween – Shojaeifard had walked past Alfie’s house with a bag of fireworks, prompting Alfie to say to him: “Give me the bag or something worse than last time is going to happen.”

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From May: Alfie’s brother thanks jury

Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Stacey Atkinson said: “Shojaeifard targeted Alfie in a premeditated and planned attack using murderous violence to end his young life, for which there can be no excuse or justification.

“His actions have robbed Alfie of his future and left his family and friends absolutely devastated. No sentence will ever compensate them for their loss.”

Alfie’s mother Heather Lane addressed Shojaeifard directly as she read her victim impact statement in court.

“No sentence will ever be enough for what you have done. I will never, ever forgive you,” she said.

Ms Lane sobbed as she said: “Alfie was my heart and when he was stabbed in the heart it killed me too.”

Alfie’s older brother Antony described him as a “loving and caring little mate” who “never deserved what happened to him”.

Mr Justice Cotter told Shojaeifard: “He had a long life ahead of him and you took that away.

“Knives have stolen so many lives, and you and others must understand how dangerous this obsession is.

“Without your interest in knives, Alfie would be here today.”

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UK weather: Heatwave could hit next week – but there’s a big catch for hayfever sufferers thanks to ‘pollen bomb’

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UK weather: Heatwave could hit next week - but there's a big catch for hayfever sufferers thanks to 'pollen bomb'

High levels of pollen are striking parts of the UK – bringing fresh misery for hayfever sufferers – with forecasts suggesting there could be a heatwave next week.

The Met Office has warned the pollen count will be very high in England for the next five days, extending to Wales and Northern Ireland from Saturday onwards.

By Monday, all but the northernmost parts of Scotland will be affected.

Pic: Met Office
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Pic: Met Office

Asthma + Lung UK is urging people with respiratory conditions to take precautions in the week ahead.

The charity’s research suggests pollen is a trigger for 47% of people with asthma, and 27% of those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (also known as COPD).

This can cause symptoms like coughing, wheezing, a tight chest and breathlessness to flare up.

Erika Radford, the organisation’s head of health advice, told Sky News: “When pollen particles are breathed in, they can cause inflammation in the airways and get into the lungs, making it harder for those with lung conditions to breathe. This can be terrifying.”

Asthma sufferers have been urged to use their preventer inhaler every day as prescribed, and keep a reliever inhaler nearby at all times – even when at home.

Britons who suffer from hayfever can take antihistamines, ask their GP to prescribe a steroid nasal spray, and avoid going outside as much as possible on high pollen days.

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UK heatwaves: ‘A silent killer’

Other top tips for beating the pollen include:

• Not hanging your washing outdoors

• Having a shower when you’ve been outside

• Keeping windows and doors closed

• Vacuuming and wiping down surfaces regularly

• Taking antihistamines four weeks before symptoms start.

Eating apples and red onions has also been touted as a way of lowering histamine levels.

Pic: Met Office
Image:
Pic: Met Office

Heatwave on the horizon

Meanwhile, the Met Office is forecasting higher temperatures as we head into next week – with 30C (86F) possible in isolated spots.

While Friday and Saturday are looking less settled, fine conditions are set to return on Sunday, and temperatures could be in the mid-20s for many in the days that follow.

Check the five-day weather forecast where you are

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Chief forecaster Neil Armstrong said: “Some central and southern areas are likely to see temperatures approaching the values needed for heatwave conditions.

“Heatwave conditions need to remain in situ for three consecutive days, and by the middle of next week it is possible that some parts of the UK could be reaching heatwave thresholds.”

He anticipates “the finest conditions and highest temperatures so far this year” – but lower overnight temperatures are set to offer some respite for those who struggle with the heat.

Sky meteorologist Steff Gaulter added: “We’ve a plume of hot, humid air coming up from the south which will start to affect us from Sunday.

“This will bring a fair amount of cloud for some places, but in the sunniest spots we’re likely to see temperatures of 27C on Sunday, 28C Monday and 29C on Tuesday and Wednesday. This might be a bit of a shock to some people after the rather lacklustre start to summer we’ve had so far!

“We’re not all going to see these temperatures though and there will be some rain affecting the western parts. The highest temperatures look most likely in central and eastern England.

“Then on Wednesday, it looks like we’ll see a thundery breakdown, but in weather terms this is still a long way off, so we’ll have to keep you posted on that.”

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NHS cyber attack: Sensitive data stolen from blood test provider by criminal group ‘published online’

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NHS cyber attack: Sensitive data stolen from blood test provider by criminal group 'published online'

Sensitive data stolen from an NHS provider in a cyber attack has apparently been published online.

NHS England says a criminal group claims it has released patient information hacked from Synnovis, which provides pathology services on blood tests.

Synnovis, which provides services primarily in southeast London, was the victim of a ransomware attack, understood to be carried out by Russian group Qilin, on 3 June.

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In a statement on Friday morning, NHS England said: “NHS England has been made aware that the cyber criminal group published data last night which they are claiming belongs to Synnovis and was stolen as part of this attack.

“We understand that people may be concerned by this and we are continuing to work with Synnovis, the National Cyber Security Centre and other partners to determine the content of the published files as quickly as possible.

“This includes whether it is data extracted from the Synnovis system, and if so whether it relates to NHS patients.

“As more information becomes available through Synnovis’ full investigation, the NHS will continue to update patients and the public.”

The cyber criminal group shared almost 400GB of data – including patient names, dates of birth, NHS numbers and descriptions of blood tests – on their darknet site and Telegram channel, the BBC said.

Spreadsheets containing financial arrangements between hospitals and GP services and Synnovis were also published, the BBC reported.

Synnovis said in a statement on Friday morning: “We know how worrying this development may be for many people. We are taking it very seriously and an analysis of this data is already under way.”

More than 320 planned operations and 1,294 outpatient appointments were postponed at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust between 10 and 16 June, the second week after the attack.

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Since the first week after the attack (3 to 9 June), the number of rearranged planned operations has gone down by 494, but a further 394 outpatient appointments have been missed.

So far, the data theft has led to more than 1,100 planned operations and 2,100 outpatient appointments to be postponed, according to NHS England London figures.

Urgent and emergency services have remained available as usual.

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