Saint was part of a pioneering football double act that shaped today's TV

File photo dated 08-03-1986 of PA Photo 8/3/86 Jimmy Greaves and Ian St. John (right). Issue date: T

Jimmy Greaves and Ian St. John, right, pictured in 1986. Liverpool great St John died this week at the age of 82 - Credit: PA

I try not to write about football in this column as there's enough of it elsewhere on a Saturday.

But I had one of those 'Oh no!' moments on Monday morning when I heard that Ian St John had passed away.

Of course St John was a player from before my time and was managing Portsmouth when I came into the world in the mid-70s.

But a decade later, when I was 10, he and partner in crime Jimmy Greaves became an essential part of my Saturdays in their brilliant ITV show Saint and Greavsie.

For seven years these two ex-pros lit up Saturday lunchtimes as I either prepared for an afternoon listening to football on Radio 2 or to venture down to Carrow Road with one of my mum's toasted sandwiches in my tummy.


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It seems wrong to refer to St John as anything other than 'Saint' as that's how millions of kids of my generation remember him.

Along with Greavsie they held court every weekend in an era when football went through some pretty grim years bringing the perfect antidote to those switching over from the rather pedestrian Football Focus that had been on for the previous 40 minutes on BBC1.

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I was a BBC boy at heart and loved the commentary of Barry Davies and John Motson, we'd always chose good old Auntie for coverage of the FA Cup Final as the voice of Brian Moore really grated on me.

But compared to boring old Bob Wilson on BBC1, Saint and Greavsie were a complete revelation, with Saint's chuckle and Greavsie's outspoken comments that trod the touchline of political correctness.

I found myself rewatching some old Saint and Greavsies on YouTube this week and it was great to see them again.

Suddenly I was back in 1989 with braces on my teeth and a copy of Match Magazine on my lap.

It only took five minutes for Jimmy Greaves to refer to a Saudi Arabian striker as "Ian Rushdie". Dan Walker wouldn't get away with that these days.

In the show's era immediately before Sky Sports and the Premier League rebranded everything and ITV lost its football rights which saw the end of this TV double act, Saint and Greavsie ruled the roost.

If you think about it, their show was a forerunner of David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Fantasy Football League, panel shows like They Think It's All Over and A League of Their Own and even Sky's Soccer Saturday.

Nobody had combined humour and sport in their way and that was as much to do with straight man Saint who seemed to hold the show together while Greavsie went off on his own rants.

The BBC's only rival in the comedy sporting stakes was A Question of Sport, featuring Saint's ex-team mate Emlyn Hughes.

File photo dated 18-01-1969 of Liverpool's Emlyn Hughes (l) and Ian St John (r). Issue date: Tuesda

Ian St John pictured in 1969 with team mate Emlyn Hughes, who also went on to have a successful career as a television personality - Credit: PA

Remember too that Greavsie had actually made a name for himself in the early 80s as a regular on the TV-am sofa where he used to appear as a television critic.

For a show that was made up of straight-laced presenters, a scruffy unkempt Greavsie laying in to last night's telly and adding in his own opinions on topical subjects was a must-watch.

Thirty years before Piers Morgan was giving us his tuppence worth every morning, the nation woke up to Greavsie.

Kenny Dalglish paid tribute to Saint as a man of great humour who always had a smile on his face, while Greavsie, who suffered a huge stroke in 2015 and struggles to speak, said: “I will miss my mate forever.”

I'll miss him too.

I had another reason to love Saint and Greavsie.

Back in the early 90s I got a Saturday job which meant a couple of seasons where I couldn't attend football matches  and spent Saturday afternoons shut in a kitchen washing dishes for a bit of spare cash.

We didn't have a video recorder so my grandmother used to record Saint and Greavsie for me and I would nip round on a Monday afternoon after school to my grandparents.

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She'd make me a weak hot chocolate (with lukewarm water, not milk), set the programme up and then leave me in peace to watch it.

That was the first thing I thought about when I heard of Saint's passing.

Despite meeting and interviewing many famous people without feeling a hint of intimidation over the last 20 years, I'd happily admit that I'd have been a little star-struck if I'd met Saint. I know this as I had the chance to meet Greavsie himself back in 2006.

He was on a spoken word tour which involved him going on stage and recounting some great tales of his footballing past. He was accompanied at times by Ron 'Chopper' Harris who was equally funny and entertaining.

At half time I wandered into the venue's bar and to one side was a selection of photos in cardboard frames, books and DVDs.

After the gig, I went back in the bar and Greavsie himself was standing next to his own items of memorabilia with a pen in hand, waiting to sign them.

I didn't want to stump up £30 for a signed photo but did want to go over and say something to him, but felt genuinely in awe of the man, even though his footballing career was before my time.

This was all because of Saint and Greavsie.

Maybe I should have gone over and bought him a beer, or at least, a weak hot chocolate.

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