Bowled Over with Freddie Flintoff
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is an unlikely cricket icon of our time, whose sporting prowess is matched only by the notoriety of his antics off the pitch. Hailing from a working-class home in Preston, Freddie rose to fame by leading England to a surprise victory against Australia at the Ashes in 2005, and has since carved a successful media career both in the UK and internationally.
Beth Maguire caught up with Freddie ahead of his show at the City Hall this month.
Hi Freddie, you’re usually quite busy, with boxing, your charity, the odd reality TV venture and family life to contend with. What have you been up to most recently?
I’m just on my way to Norwich at the moment. I did a series for Sky last year where we’d go around in a chip van, so we’re going to pitch up and take chips to the people of East Anglia for series 2.
You’re heading out on tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the rather unexpected 2005 Ashes win soon. How are you feeling about that?
To be honest, it feels like it’s flown by – it almost feels like it was a previous life. It’s been on the telly a lot recently, and I’ll be sat watching it with the kids and they look back at me all excited and it feels odd because it’s such a blur. It was definitely the pinnacle of all of our careers I think, but I just never expected it.
Are you a bit nostalgic for those days?
Not at all! I think a lot of players can be, but I tend to look forward these days, instead of being all about yesterday. Maybe when I’m old I’ll be sat in my arm chair telling the grandkids about it, then I might feel a bit nostalgic, but not for now.
Well you’re a bona-fide sporting hero, but a lot of people love you because of your laddish reputation – getting drunk on pedalos in the Caribbean and taking a piss in the gardens at Downing Street. What kinds of stories can audiences expect at your show?
Well the tour is very much self-deprecating and more about things that have happened off the pitch. That means plenty of drinking stories, and we’ve got one about the time we played a test match at Old Trafford and I took too much Viagra, not really realising how long it lasted, and another about dodgy massages in Pakistan. There’s plenty!
Sounds lovely! Now I’m sure the best ones are saved for the tour, but we’re quite interested in sledging [where players distract opposing players with insults]. Do you have any favourite lines?
I don’t really have a go-to or anything, as sledging tends to be more spur of the moment but it’s a bit of an odd thing really. A lot of people think it’s just sheer abuse and sometimes it can go off, but mostly it’s funny. We’ve got a good bit about it in the tour stuff.
So how’s your work life changed since retirement in 2009?
When I finished with cricket it was a shock; all of a sudden it was like I had to go back into the world and get a normal job. I’ve been really lucky though and fortunately haven’t had to do anything I really didn’t want to. Sky have been good to me and I’ve been able to travel and have a go at a load of things. I’d definitely swap it all if I could still play cricket, but I can’t now because of injury.
You tried your hand at boxing in 2012 with some success, but why boxing?
Well I was given the chance, so why not! I’m not scared of trying different things and failing, and you’re not going to be a champion at everything you try, but I did love it.
How did it compare to cricket – it’s not a team sport, but both are physically demanding in different ways…
With cricket you don’t get punched in the face, you wear all whites and break for food. The boxing world is very different, very aggressive. It felt like everyone was just talking about hitting each other all the time. Obviously I struggled with getting punched in the face, but punching strangers was a bit of a struggle too – it’s not really something I was used to.
And you won the Australian series of I’m a Celeb in March. Was it really as tough as people make out?
I didn’t initially want to do the series as I’d seen it on television before, but in the end I thought it was great. It was like a really low budget health retreat – I did a couple of challenges but mostly I’d sleep for 12 hours a night, lie around losing weight and just got to chill out. I’ve seen people go on it to try and find themselves who end up breaking down because they might not have liked what they found – but going on telly is probably not the environment to do that.
Joining you on tour is Clyde Holcroft – can you tell us a little bit about him and how you pair have come to form a duo?
I first met Clyde doing Sport and Comic Relief cause he’s a TV producer and does some comedy writing. We’re good mates now and we do a podcast together. In the past we’d joked about doing a tour like this but now it’s actually happening, which is mad. We tend to do a bit of storytelling in a funny way; we focus on enjoying ourselves and hope that everyone else will too.
Catch ‘Freddie Flintoff: 2nd Innings’ at Sheffield City Hall on September 25. Tickets are available online at www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk and in person at the City Hall Box Office or by calling 0114 2789 789.