COURAGEOUS Ant McPartlin was supported by close friend, pop star Robbie Williams, 44 — who also battles drug and alcohol addiction. He says: “Rob’
COURAGEOUS Ant McPartlin was supported by close friend, pop star Robbie Williams, 44 — who also battles drug and alcohol addiction.
He says: “Rob’s been a constant and still has been through this. I’ve seen him quite a lot recently.
“He’s an ITV colleague now. We did talk about it before he took the X Factor job.
“I gave him my twopenn’orth and I thought he was brilliant. And Ayda (Robbie’s wife) was good as well.”
But Ant has been buoyed most by the support of the public.
‘I could hear criticism — a lot was justified’
He says: “I wasn’t away in such a bubble that I didn’t feel stuff. I could hear criticism when it was out there — a lot of it was justified and I’m man enough to take it.
“When you’ve done something like drink-driving you’ve got to be able to take it because it’s wrong.
“But I think, taking time off work, people have really seen how seriously I’m taking it.
“The support actually brought me to tears the other day. A grown man came out of his van to hug me and say, ‘Get yourself well, we miss you on TV. It’s not the same without you’.
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“Another reason for talking today is that if it gets another bloke in his 40s who would not talk to anybody else, then good, I’m glad I did the interview.
“Just pick up the phone and say, ‘I think I’m struggling a bit. I’m probably drinking a bit too much’.”
The telly legend has admitted that Holly Willoughby did a fantastic job on I’m A Celebrity — but insists she will not return.
There has been speculation that ITV could try and get all three stars to host the celebrity jungle series this year.
But in our exclusive interview, Ant — who has reunited with Dec after a ten-month split — said: “No it’s not going to be a trio. It’s back to us two (Ant and Dec) this year.
“That was the great thing about Holly. It was a one-year gig. That was the brief, a one-off. I was thankful that it was her because she was looking after my mate out there and looking after the show. And she doesn’t need the work — she can’t get off the telly!”
He found the show too painful to watch and went on holiday with his girlfriend Anne-Marie Corbett to avoid it. But Ant is adamant that he is happy about the success Holly, 37, and Dec, 43, had.
He says: “I wanted the show to be big and thank God it was. Not one part of me wanted that show to fail.
Ant was involved in talks with ITV and Dec about mutual pal and This Morning host Holly replacing him on last year’s show. It came after the Geordie star decided he needed more time to focus on his recovery.
He says: “It’s not a show you can do on your own. It’s a two-hander comedy show that we have developed over the years.
“I always knew — we both knew — there would have to be a replacement. It was ironic because the year before we’d joked about Holly on the show.
“But when you boil it all down when we talked about, she is the perfect replacement. She’s a friend. She offers a completely different dynamic to what Dec and I have had in the past.
“She’s gorgeous to look at. She’s funny. I get on really well with her. He gets on really well with her. It made sense — and she wanted air miles.”
Ant decided to switch off all social media about the show so he wasn’t distracted on holiday. But a massive gaffe from a boss at ITV shattered his media ban.
He says: “I’ll tell you a funny story. I told the senior executive at ITV that I’m not going to watch the show because it will be hard for me.
“I haven’t been on social media. I got through the day. Anne-Marie and I had a lovely lunch for my birthday. But I was lying in bed and I don’t know how the show’s gone.
“I turned me phone on and a text came through from a senior ITV executive.
“It just said: ‘Congratulations on a hilarious opening, well done you two. He’d clearly gone to text Holly and Dec but texted me.
“I replied: ‘Funny, I didn’t see it myself.’
But I let Dec know about it. It was funny. I was fine by that point.”
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On his return from holiday, Ant saw brief moments of Holly in his familiar role. He says: “I’ve seen bits since I’ve got back. I thought they’ve done a great job.
“I thought Holly was fantastic. I thought she was a real tonic for the show.
“Me and Dec are long in the tooth now — we’ve seen every Bush Tucker trial there is. So to see someone’s reaction for the first time. I knew she’d be a success. The line-up was brilliant.”
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