Hill goes to become Great Pundit in the Sky

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The Independent Online
JIMMY HILL - to some an icon of football punditry, to others an irritation - is to desert the BBC after 25 years with scarcely a backward glance.

The commentator enjoyed massive exposure during the Beeb's coverage of the World Cup, but his contract came to an end on the same day as the final. He decided not to renew it and will join Sky Sports News.

Mr Hill yesterday blamed his move on the ever-decreasing number of important live matches on the BBC. The loss of rights to show Premiership matches and cup finals meant that Mr Hill's opportunities to opine were dwindling.

Asked whether he would miss the professionalism of the BBC's approach to football coverage, Mr Hill responded with a blunt: "No," adding that the main thing he will miss is his car parking space.

At 70, Mr Hill has been a TV pundit for 40 years, spending much of that time infuriating football fans with his know-it-all manner. In his new Sky programme The Last Word, he will conduct lengthy interviews with sportsmen and women, mainly footballers, hoping to coax "diamonds" from them in a relaxed atmosphere.

"Without being rude," he says, "footballers are not the best talkers in the world.

"I might go beyond football and ask them what they think of Great Britain today, as a country. And what do they think of hooligans? I'll ask them if they think they might have been a hooligan if they were not a footballer."

On his own career, Mr Hill is philosophical. Starting out as a player for Fulham, then becoming manager of Coventry City, he next moved to London Weekend Television as Head of Sport. He says he liked playing best and it has been downhill from then on - finishing up with punditry. He is coy about the rewards of the new job, but says it "will pay enough to pay the milkman".