“It’s OK,” he told RadioTimes.com about sitting out this series. “There’s 15 celebrities, so we always knew there was going to be an imbalance. That was my role last year. There’s been no changes with the men, so even coming into it – we didn’t know until the last minute – but I already had that in my mind.
“I would love to be in the same situation as everyone else purely because of the experience, and when I speak to them each day – ‘We’re going through this and this is happening’ – you’d love to be there. But at the same time I love being part of the show and I’m busy with It Takes Two! I’m sure they’re going to get me learning some new dances this year.”
Neil added that he hopes to dance in both the Strictly Christmas and Children in Need specials this year and remained matter-of-fact about whether he might find himself partner-less for a third year running.
“If it happened again next year and theres again no changes on the men, that’s the way it is,” he said at the National Lottery Awards. “I’m still a part of one of the biggest TV shows, so yeah – I look at it always on the positive side rather than the negative side.”
One of the key reasons for the surplus of professionals on the show is to have back-up in case any of the other pros get injured. However, when Brendan Cole suffered from a chest infection last year it was Gorka Marquez who was drafted in to train with Brendan’s celebrity partner Anastasia, not Neil. And now he’s explained why.
“It’s good they have a few reserves because last year Brendan was injured. But at that particular point I was [choreographing] and preparing for Children in Need, so thank God Gorka was available so he could jump in. People were saying ‘Why didn’t Neil do it?’ but I didn’t have time at that moment!”
“If that’s the way they want the show to go and they decide to add it one year, so be it,” he said. “Maybe if Keith Lemon’s around we can be Team Redhead or something like that!” he laughed. “I’ve worked a lot in the past with same-sex dancing.”
On who he would like to see win the show this year, Neil, who is married to fellow Strictly celebrity Katya Jones, said: “I always like to see an underdog win.”
He went on to say there were “a lot of underdogs that have never danced in their life” on the line-up this year, and added that Ruth Langsford was one such celebrity who was “super-quick” at picking up dance steps.