Jeff Stelling believes Countdown’s replacement for Carol Vorderman is ‘drop-dead gorgeous’ and will be a big hit.

The show’s new host, who took over from Des O’Connor, also described Oxford maths graduate Rachel Riley, the new brains of Countdown, as beautiful and clever.

The 53-year-old host of Sky Sport’s Soccer Saturday is old enough to be Miss Riley’s father, but that has not stopped him swooning over his co-host.

In an interview with the Radio Times, out on Tuesday, Jeff said of Rachel: “She’s drop-dead gorgeous, and clever with it.

“She’s 22, blonde, beautiful, an Oxford maths graduate, very confident – she’ll be a big, big hit. I’m the man who stops and starts the clock. Rachel has the brains, she does the calculations, she’s got the looks … and I start the clock.”

Countdown relaunches next Monday on Channel 4, with Jeff and Rachel replacing Des O’Connor and Carol Vorderman.

Jeff also promised not to replicate the frenetic pace of Soccer Saturday on Countdown.

He said: “This is completely different and I’ll be interested to see the public’s reaction, apart from, ‘Who the heck are you?’. They’ll probably just think it’s still Des O’Connor, but with a facelift and having put on about four stone, maybe.”

He added: “My only concern – initially, anyway – was that I might lose credibility in sporting terms.

“People within sport might look upon me as the game-show host, which is the last thing I want.”