Freddie Flintoff: “When I was playing cricket I spent a lot of time living up to a personality… now I can be myself”

The former England superstar also chats about his TV viewing habits and reveals why his Sports Personality award is the only trophy he has on display

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Do you like your sofa, Freddie?

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Towards the end of my cricket career I spent a lot time injured. I was on the couch for three months with my leg in a machine being bent and straightened and I tell you what, it was awful. But now I like being at home, sitting on my couch relaxing, watching TV.

What do you watch?

Me and the missus like a box set. You watch TV differently now, don’t you? We watched Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. We’re watching Prison Break at the moment. All the tattoos and that. I know it’s hard to get out of prison, but they’re making a meal of it!

Do you watch yourself much, on Australian I’m a Celebrity, say?

I do from time to time, to see if I’m getting any better at it. Being on TV has given me the opportunity to do things I’ve always wanted to do. I spent a week in the Okavango Delta in Botswana on my own.

How do your three kids react to seeing Dad on screen?

I do A League of Their Own on Sky and some of the language and humour is not for them. My daughter watched me play cricket, but the boys never really did. They see all their mates’ dads taking them to school in suits and picking them up and then they’re asking what I’m doing and I’m off to the gym, so I don’t know if they understand what I do. They think I’m a 39-year-old student who’s got study leave.

Is your front room littered with your sporting memorabilia?

No. There’s nothing in my house or on the wall that would suggest that I’ve done anything, apart from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy on the shelf.

The BBC will be pleased…

They probably won’t when they hear what I’ve got to say. It’s not because I think I particularly deserved it or anything, it’s just quite a nice thing to look at. It suits the room. You know the trophy, it’s like a television camera.

Yes, difficult to dust…

My mother-in-law is the only one who’s ever polished it. Now it’s surrounded by my kids’ trophies so it’s not even got pride of place. I go into the houses of people who play cricket, sports people, and they’ve got pictures all over the walls. It’s like, “Look at me. I played cricket.” I enjoyed it, loved it, but I don’t want to ram it in people’s faces.

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Flintoff with his BBC Radio 5Live co-star Robbie Savage

What’s outside the window?

It’s brilliant because you’ve got the hills at the back of Macclesfield and the flats of Cheshire. I really like cycling. I wear the lycra, which is not ideal, but you put your helmet on, your glasses on and you’re alone.

Have you become a loner, then?

When I was playing cricket I spent a lot of time living up to a personality. In sport, you don’t want to give anything away and it becomes exhausting, to be honest. Now I’m a bit older I can be myself. I don’t like events or awards. I’d rather be at home listening to music.

What music do you like?

When I was 16, I got a job on the record counter at Woolworths in Preston. I loved it, genuinely loved that job. The Elvis Essential Collection came out, and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe. I got into Motown, soul music and Frank Sinatra.

So, any regrets Freddie?

I’ve made mistakes, as a sportsman and on TV, and not been as good as I could be, but that’s how it is, isn’t it? But I’ve done nothing that I beat myself up about. It’s taken a while, but I’m happy. 

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Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff features in Radio 5 Live’s weekly podcast Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy, with Robbie Savage and Matthew Syed