Of all the entertainment shows I’ve been invited to appear on since I’m a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing is undoubtedly the biggest. By 2009, when I pulled on my sequinned shirt and high-waisted trousers, the celebrity Ballroom/Latin dancing competition was pulling in 8 to 11 million viewers every week and giving ITV’s
X Factor a run for its money. And if the huge audiences weren’t enough pressure, I was following in the twinkle-toed footsteps of my fellow cricketers Darren Gough (2005) and Mark Ramprakash (2006) who had both won it.
I actually only make it on to the show as a late substitute for Matthew Hoggard when Hoggy pulls out. I’m on holiday in Spain with Dawn, by now my wife, when I get a call from my agent to say that Strictly are interested in having me on.
I’ve already been asked to do ITV’s Dancing on Ice and had a trial in front of Torvill and Dean. That wasn’t pretty. I was hopeless. I mean really hopeless.
They said, ‘Phil, on to the ice . . .’ and it was splat. Straight down, holding my side in pain. Dangerous sport.
They still want me, though, but the two shows clash so I can’t do both.
Dancing on Ice offers more money, but the prospect of ending up in traction after attempting a double axel doesn’t greatly appeal. I’m a BBC boy now, too, with regular gigs on The One Show and A Question of Sport so that tips me towards Strictly.
It’s like waiting to go out and face Merv Hughes in Perth, except with a spray tan and wearing a ruffled pink shirt with sparkly rhinestones all over it, a very tight pair of trousers and high heels.
On the other hand, I’m worried about how Dawn will feel about the close physical contact I’ll have with my female partner on Strictly. But Dawnie just says, ‘Go for it.’ She loves the show and if I take part she’ll get tickets every week – two seats in the audience and four tickets for the green room. Happy days. So I go for Strictly.
The only problem is they want us to cut short our holiday to start training. We say no, so I start after everyone else, a little bit on the back foot.
There are sixteen celebrity/professional couples competing in the series – on the celebrity side, sports personalities Joe Calzaghe, Jade Johnson, Richard Dunwoody and Martina Hingis, TV presenters Chris Hollins and Rav Wilding and actors Laila Rouass, Lynda Bellingham and EastEnders stars Ricky Groves and Natalie Cassidy.
Everyone seems to be making the connection that because Ramps and Goughie are cricketers and they won it I’ll be good too. Well, hold on, my dancing can best be described as ‘good wedding dancer’ standard.
I speak to Ramps and Goughie and their advice is just to go and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t take it too seriously. Nevertheless, I think they ended up taking it pretty seriously when they realized they were good at it. My attitude is to have a good laugh, treat it as
a chance to learn a new skill, get fit and see what happens.
I’m paired with Katya Virshilas and before we get started on training she comes round to our house to break the ice. She’s one of the new professionals on the show, so she’s very keen to go far in the competition, and she seems nice.
By the time I pitch up at a dance studio in Wimbledon for our first training session I’m petrified. The series lasts thirteen weeks and you have to learn a different dance for each show. Our first session lasts six or seven hours and that sets the tone for the next eleven weeks. My intention to be relaxed about the whole thing soon goes out the window, too. Working so closely with Katya every day, we quickly form a friendship and I can see how important it is to her to do well so she will be invited back next year. I don’t want to let her down.
I do draw the line at training on a Sunday, though, unless there’s a group dance we have to rehearse, which happens occasionally.
When Katya suggests it, I tell her, ‘Even God doesn’t dance on a Sunday.’
It isn’t long before the show is just about taking over my life anyway. Every spare moment between filming on The One Show and A Question of Sport is spent training, and each week has a rhythm to it:
Monday – start learning a new dance routine. I can’t get it. Shout. Scream. I don’t want to do it. I’m never going to get it right.
Tuesday – a little bit better.
Wednesday – a bit better still.
Thursday – forgetting it a bit.
Friday – just about getting it, but thinking, ‘Oh God, am I going to forget it?’
Saturday – the build-up to the live show. Scared of two main things: one, forgetting all of my steps; and two, controlling my overwhelming desire to break out into the David Brent dance on live TV for a laugh.
The beginning of every week is particularly painful because you start from scratch again. Each ballroom dance has different variations in footwork, the way you hold your partner, and then the Latin stuff is totally different again. From week to week, it’s like switching from spin bowling to swing bowling to fast bowling and then being told to bowl with the other arm.
Then you have to learn the steps to an entire one-and-a-half minute routine. Considering I forgot my own ten-step run-up in the last season of my career, this is no easy task . . . or was it eleven steps?
And on the night of the show, everyone’s so nervous – there are experienced actors and performers pulling whities, fainting backstage. I’ve got no spit, my heart’s jumping out of my chest. It’s like waiting to go out and face Merv Hughes in Perth, except with a spray tan and wearing a ruffled pink shirt with sparkly rhinestones all over it, a very tight pair of trousers and high heels. Then I have to skip down the steps on to the stage and perform a difficult dance I’ve only had a few days to learn in front of a packed audience and millions watching at home. The potential to make an absolute tit of myself is massive and I can never wholeheartedly enjoy my Saturday night.
Dawn enjoys herself, though. I wear tails for my first-ever dance, the waltz, and she tells me afterwards I looked lovely. The judges – Craig Revel-Horwood, Len Goodman, Alesha Dixon and Bruno Tonioli – seem pretty impressed with my performance, too. Comments like ‘great footwork’, ‘could be the surprise of the show’, and, wait for it, ‘debonair’ are bandied about.
I push off into a step too late, which means by the time I’m rising up, Katya is already going down and we end up hopping about in a circle doing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ in front of 10 million people.
When I get the timing slightly wrong, though, it’s so difficult to get it back. In one dance, the quickstep I think it is, I push off into a step too late, which means by the time I’m rising up, Katya is already going down and we end up hopping about in a circle doing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ in front of 10 million people.
Generally, I feel the judges are a bit harsh on me during the series; I’m a little bit underscored. The worst time is week four, after injuring my knee in training so badly I have to have an emergency cartilage operation. Usually, you’d have to rest up for six weeks, but I have to come out a few days later, dance a salsa wearing a big knee brace under my trousers and keep going, which they don’t seem to take into account.
I make it to week nine before being eliminated in a dance-off with Ricky Groves. Some people seem to think I should have gone further (see below), but sadly the Goughie-Ramps-Tuffers glitterball trophy treble is not to be.
I learned how to dance, though, which was my aim, and got some sort of masochistic pleasure out of going through the mill every week. I also appeared on a show with the legendary Bruce Forsyth to whom it has been said I have an uncanny chin resemblance. Brucie never confirmed whether or not I am his long lost love child, though. He was too busy looking for digestive biscuits. Loves a digestive, does the Brucemeister.
My Strictly ‘journey’ . . . as told by YouTube viewers
[spelling/punctuation is all their own]
Week one: Waltz to ‘Sam’
Brilliant. V. elegant and graceful. Tuffers all the way.
I love these two especially Katya she’s awesome ! Xxx
Week two: Cha-cha-cha to ‘Hey Daddy’
Awwww. He’s adorable. Granted, he’s not much of a dancer, but he’s adorable.
Loved his face at the end :)
Tuffers is a fit cockey geezer
why is he holding his stomach roll all the time ??
just tell me why all british men can’t dance for shit ?? pls
Week three: Quickstep to ‘Put On a Happy face’
Phil and kartya r my fav’s i want him to win who would of though
dareen gough would of won TEAM TOPKAT
He’s just so cute and happy. I love watching him. Technically
maybe he’s not perfect but he’s a joy to watch
Week four: Salsa to ‘Long Train Runnin’
Considering he had a knee surgery this same week he did VERY well.
for some reason i liked phil. he has this partcular charm and
sick, he was terrible
love this song & Tuffers is a great performer
Week five: Viennese Waltz to ‘Mad About The Boy’
love this song! deserved 8’s and 9’s katya <3
Tuffers&Katya are very enjoyable to watch. He adds charm to his performances. He may not be the best, but he sure is competent.
UNDER MARKED . . . Compared to the other male dances, Phil def. deserved 8’s
Week six: Samba to ‘Daddy Cool’
Well done Tuffers! More of a ballroom boy than a Latin man though
phill is a fit cocknry geezer
Woo Hoo I thought it was good . . . enjoyed it very much . . . . . BUT . . . yes agree with previous comment you excelled in the ballroom . . . BUT in saying that the Samba is a very tricky dance to master especially for the man . . . so well done again!!! :) . . . . . . in fact you looked much better than Anton!!! ;)
Week seven: Tango to ‘Back to Black’
as an aussie . . . tuffers is my favorite pommy player . . . total clod
oh tuffers, what are you doing
Elegant but Sexy Dance by Katya – Phil’s not bad either!
Week eight: Rumba to ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’
Pass the sick bag (another one please, used the first one watching
Chris Hollins) . . .
Week nine: American Smooth to ‘Come Fly With Me’
Phil is a ballroom boy all the way!
Tuffers could have won Strictly 2009. Ricky Groves winning the dance-off was a total fix, and beyond a joke. He is the best dancer of 09, beats Ricky W and Ali outright, great posture etc, etc . . . ah!
The Cat has gone and for me so has the buzz so will be watching x factor now. I wanted him to get in the finals he wouldnt have won but he was just great for the show. Len you old toad.
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