Yellow cards may be a thing of the past for former footballer Robbie Savage but that didn’t stop viewers seeing red in reaction to some of his thrusting Michael Jackson dance routines on Strictly Come Dancing. This year’s BBC1 series averaged audiences of ten million per week.
The BBC received 267 complaints about Robbie’s pelvic movements but there was additional furore about his behaviour in the press and on the comments board for Team Savola – comprising the former Derby County midfielder and Strictly partner Ola Jordan. The pair lasted until the quarter final of the competition.
I ask Robbie if he felt the raunchy moves might have cost him the votes?
“Not really, we all knew it just a Michael Jackson move,“ says Robbie. “It was pathetic really, all the negative press it got.“
Robbie began his career playing for Manchester United’s youth team in 1991 and went on to make more than 600 appearances for teams including Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City and Leicester City. He played in the Welsh national team from 1995-2004. In 2008, he was labelled dirtiest player in the Premier League by the Daily Mail.
He’s often been marked out as a controversial player and now has got some stick for a bit of raunchy dancing but Robbie tells me it doesn’t get to him any more.
Away from the pitch, Robbie has found success as a pundit with a weekly column in the Daily Mirror for the past two years covering the 2010 FIFA World Cup, before joining the presenting team for BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 live football phone-in show in 2010. He announced he was quitting football in January last year to concentrate on his media career and in May, the month he retired, he was awarded the Sony Radio Academy Rising Star Award for his 5 Live Sunday show.
Now Robbie is returning to the dance floor for the Strictly Come Dancing: Live Tour 2012, where fans get to watch their favourite dancing couples compete live for votes and the all-important feedback of the TV judges. For the tour Robbie will be partnering Katya Virshilas, who danced Gavin Henson to the semi-finals in 2010, but bowed out in round three this year.
“It’s similar to trying out with a new team because you don’t know each other,“ says Robbie, “but we’ll be tweaking two of my old dance routines, so it’s not like starting from scratch.“
The five-week dance spectacular also features Jason Donovan, Mark Foster, Nancy Dell’Olio, Chelsee Healey, ex-EastEnders legend Anita Dobson and McFly drummer Harry Judd, who went on to win the show.
Robbie admits that the big arenas are a challenge but says they’re one he’s more than ready to tackle.
“When you’re not playing football anymore you need a buzz in your life.“
After retiring from the beautiful game, I wonder what Robbie would have said if anyone had told him he’d be back at Wembley dancing the quickstep?
“I’d have thought what planet are they on but it was really something to have six and a half thousand people giving you a standing ovation in the quarter final.
“I decided to do Strictly because my mother loves it and I felt it was a show where you can learn something and develop new skills. I’m really glad to be continuing the experience on tour. I can’t wait to be out on the floor every night.“
Friendships were forged on the way and Robbie is looking forward to catching up with Harry.
“He was a worthy winner,“ admits Robbie. “He was fantastic and gave me a few tips, I didn’t give him any.“
So what’s in store for Robbie in 2012?
“Since 2011 was such a huge year for me, hopefully more of the same. I’m looking forward to watching the European Championships and The Olympics. The Jungle might be calling, you never know...“
Strictly Come Dancing: Live Tour 2012 comes to Wembley Arena on Friday, January 27 at 7.30pm and the O2 Arena on Saturday, January 28 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm and Sunday, January 29 at 1.30pm and 6.30pm. Details: 08444 999955, www.ticketzone.co.uk and http://strictlycomedancinglive.com