Bianca Westwood's banter with Jeff Stelling began with her Soccer Saturday debut when she became the first female match reporter on the Sky Sports show.
The journalist had been working at Sky since 2000 before making her debut on the popular show in 2012. While she's since left the broadcaster at the end of last season, Westwood – alongside her former colleagues -will be taking on a nationwide tour in 2024 in a reunion of the Soccer Saturday crew, including Arsenal legend Charlie Nicholas and Liverpool icon Phil Thompson.
The West Ham fan opened up about her ground-breaking debut on the show over a decade ago and revealed what she had told Stelling before making her first appearance. "I was absolutely petrified but also really excited, obviously, and I said to Jeff 'I don't want you to make a big fuss about it, I want to literally just do it," she told the Mirror.
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"I don't want to be like the first woman, I just want to be one of the lads. I don't want too much focus on me, I just want to be a football reporter and that's it'. He was like yeah don't worry about it, but a lot of viewers will have seen the big build up [where he says] 'And now, making history, Soccer Saturday breaking down barriers' and all this."
Unfortunately for Westwood, Stelling didn't keep to his promise but it was the beginning of the back-and-forth of banter between the pair. She continued: "I was just stood there at Bournemouth, I think it was Bournemouth-Orient, thinking 'Oh my god'. And that was just the beginning or mine and Jeff's banter with one another. He started right from day one, I told him I wanted to be low-key and he just did this whole big thing."
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During the navigation of her future since leaving Sky, having Saturdays to herself again has been something she's continuing to get used. But still manages to get in the occasional episode of the new-look Soccer Saturday which is now hosted by Simon Thomas, who succeeded Stelling after 29 years at the helm.
Westwood paid tribute to Thomas, calling him a "great broadcaster" as she recognised the difficulty of following up someone like Stelling who'd become a permanent part of the public's home on Saturday's. "Simon won't try to emulate that, he'll find his own voice and his own style and I think he's done that really quickly, which is testament to him," she admitted.
"But I knew he'd be capable because he's a great broadcaster and he's been doing it for years, it was just how you find your own voice that's new, and I think he's doing a really good job of it so far – I'm really pleased for him because he's a really nice guy as well."
The next phase of her career will begin with her tour with Stelling and the old gang which will include several special guests as Westwood said most of the shows have already sold out for next year. "A lot of the shows are sold out already so we're really buzzing."
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