Updated: Saturday, 25th May 2019 @ 8:13am

Kam you believe it? Iconic pundit Chris Kamara feels 'fortunate' Sky Sports still allow him near microphone

Kam you believe it? Iconic pundit Chris Kamara feels 'fortunate' Sky Sports still allow him near microphone

| By Kenny Lomas

Unbelievable Jeff.

Utter those two words to any football fan in the UK and they will instantly know who you are talking about.

There is perhaps no other broadcaster currently working within the beautiful game who has achieved the kind of iconic status Chris Kamara has earned in his time as a football pundit.

His excitable demeanour, off-the-cuff humour and hilarious gaffes have won him the hearts and minds of millions of fans across the globe.

“Well, I like a laugh, don’t I?” he told MM. “I think it’s important and I think the fans appreciate it as well. Not everything’s got to be serious and the humour’s got to be off-the-cuff.

“You can’t do what one or two of the broadcasters do and have it ready prepared beforehand, it just doesn’t work, the fans won’t have that. They want it to be all spontaneous and a bit of fun and I like that sort of stuff.

“And the way they’ve reacted to that has been brilliant, I’m so fortunate that Sky allow me to be myself and just carry on doing what I’m doing.

“As far as the programme is concerned, I can’t go a single day in England or anywhere in the UK without somebody saying ‘unbelievable Jeff’!"

Incredibly, Kammy’s journey into broadcasting was a rather unexpected one.

After a successful playing career as a no-nonsense midfielder, playing for a 10 teams including Portsmouth, Leeds and Bradford City, Kammy decided to turn his hand to management.

He spent two years in the Bantams hotseat, the last club he played for before hanging up his boots, before leaving in January 1998 to take the reins at Stoke.

His time at the Potters was disastrous, winning one game out of 14, which subsequently led to him being sacked just three months after taking the job.

It was sat that point he decided management might not be for him – and was where he found his true calling as a pundit.

After impressing on a regular slot on Sky Sports Soccer Extra, Kammy was brought in to help out on Gillette Soccer Saturday in 1999.

And from there, the legend was born.

“I don’t think we ever believed it would become as popular as it has,” he said. “Back then it was nowhere near the show that it’s been over the last six or seven years.

“I don't think we ever believed it would get to the cult status that it has now, people watching radio on television.

“But it’s amazing how every single football supporter worth his salt has probably watched the show at one stage or another.”

Kammy quickly became a firm favourite on the show with his quick-witted humour that was often at his own expense.

The chemistry between Soccer Saturday’s slick anchorman Jeff Stelling also helped achieve the cult status the show has today.

But the reason Kammy is perhaps as iconic as he is, is undoubtedly because of his not-so-slick gaffes.

Just last week, Kamara left viewers in stitches when Stelling cut to the North East-born star on three occasions during the West Ham v Southampton match, only to see the pundit staring blankly.

And for anyone familiar with Kammy, they will know what his most famous incident is – the red card at Portsmouth.

Kamara failed to realise that Anthony Vanden Borre had been sent off in the Premier League game between Portsmouth and Blackburn, thinking the player had been substituted.

Stelling cut to Kammy, asking for the low-down, and what ensued was a hilarious exchange that needs to be watched to do it justice.

While it was amusing for audiences, as far as Kamara’s bosses were concerned, it was an embarrassment.

“I was in trouble at the time actually,” he told MM. “I was watching the game properly. I wasn’t the only one. The journalists in the press box didn’t know either. 

“As for Vanden Borre, he’d got the first yellow card but nobody could really remember it. And when he did the handball he didn’t even wait for the referee to give the second yellow card, he trotted straight off.

“There was no hoo-ha from the crowd. Not that many people actually knew he’d been sent off.”

On his way home that night, Kammy received a phone call from the Director of Soccer Saturday, telling him in no uncertain terms that his behaviour was unprofessional and unacceptable.

But unbeknown to Sky at that time, the clip was spreading like wildfire across the world.

Mr Chris Kamara, the failed manager turned football pundit, had become an overnight world star.

“So then the next day, I got a phone call from Fox TV in America asking if I could go to Yorkshire Television near my house and do a link up with them because the clip was so funny,” he said.

“And then Dutch TV came on and then Chinese TV and then all of a sudden Sky were ecstatic by the amazing publicity of it all and it turned on its head.

“So from being a minus it turned into a massive plus which nearly everybody mentions.”

That famous incident, along with many others, have opened up more doors for Kamara, who has appeared in a number of side-splitting TV ads for the betting company Ladbrokes since 2012.

He is also well-known for his charity work and was awarded 'The Above & Beyond in Memory of Sir Bill Cotton award' for his contributions to Marie Curie Cancer Care In December 2011.

This was after he joined a team of Football League ambassadors, including Brendan Rodgers, Aidy Boothroyd and Middlesbrough Chairman Steve Gibson climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, raising £385,000 for the charity.

Kamara also released a charity single entitled Sing 4 England as the Three Lions' official song for Euro 2012.

As for the song itself, let’s just say Kammy shouldn’t quit his day job anytime soon.

However, not all good deeds go unpunished and Kammy got himself in a spot of bother this summer while covering the World Cup in Brazil for Sky.

Kamara was forced to issue a warning on Twitter to not follow his example after he chased down a street thief while walking down Copacabana beach on his way to coach kids in the favelas with Gordon Strachan and Adrian Chiles.

“To be honest it was a bit foolish really because I did it instinctively,” said the 56-year-old.

“My brother-in-law, to be fair to him, had ‘mug me’ written on his back, because he took his shirt off and he had a gold chain round his neck.

“I never thought any more of it and, as we walked further along Copacabana beach, this bloke asked us the time.

“Because of the colour of our skin, we look Brazilian, so I think they were trying to work out whether we were Brazilian or tourists.”

In a split second, another man came up behind his brother-in-law and snatched the chain before darting off.

Without a second thought, Kamara gave chase, darting through traffic before the Sky Sports man cornered him.

“I followed him left, and it happened to be a straight road, and running is my forte, even though I’m an old fella.

“And every time he looked over his shoulder, he was gaining, and gaining and gaining. And eventually I caught up with him and got the assistance of security guard outside a hotel.”

The police arrested the would-be-robber and returned the gold chain.

Not everyone was happy with Kammy’s ‘good deed’ though.

Britain’s consulate in Brazil believed Kamara had set a bad example, especially since he posted the events to his 1.25million followers on Twitter.

They feared English fans may follow his example and wind up getting hurt.

“They said that England fans could follow suit and do exactly the same. They asked if I could just do them a favour and tweet out that it’s not the done thing as somebody might not be as fortunate as I was.

“They said kids might confronted by somebody who’s armed, then it could end up being fatal.

“It was awful because I was on a guilt trip, thinking 'crikey, please nobody get injured or hurt between now and the end of the World Cup. Because ‘I saw Kammy do it, so I guess I’d better do it’.

“I thought, ‘this is not good’, and the police were just saying ‘you’ve been very lucky on this occasion’.

“But I did it, and I lived to tell the tale.”

Image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube with thanks