How Freddie Flintoff ditched his boozy cricketer image to clean up and become a TV star after opening up on his battles with bulimia and depression
- Andrew Flintoff was the brightest star of England’s 2005 Ashes triumph
- He ditched his drinking habits almost a decade ago to become a TV star
- Flintoff survived a near-fatal crash while filming Top Gear last year
Swapping the pitch for the camera is almost an obligatory move for players heading into retirement these days, regardless of the sport.
But while the majority trade their place on the field for a spot in the commentary box, the sight of professional athletes becoming TV presenters remains somewhat of a rarity.
Seldom are more successful at both than Freddie Flintoff, who seamlessly moved from being one of England’s greatest-ever cricketers to becoming a much-loved TV star.
The latter role almost cost him his life as he suffered a near-fatal car crash while filming the BBC’s Top Gear show in December 2022 at Dunsfold Park Aerodrome in Surrey.
Flintoff, without a helmet and with no airbag to protect him, was driving an open topped three-wheel Morgan Super 3, capable of speeds up to 130 mph, in icy conditions when it flipped and slid along the track, dragging his face along the tarmac with it.
Andrew Flintoff joined England’s ODI team as a consultant for the series against New Zealand
The TV presenter suffered in a near-fatal crash while filming the BBC’s motoring show Top Gear in December that required four hours of surgery
Flintoff’s role at Top Gear is now uncertain following his horrendous crash last year
He spent four hours on the operating table and his gruesome facial injuries were still visible when he returned to working with the England cricket team last week, as he joined Jos Buttler’s side as a consultant for their ODI series against New Zealand
His return to the sport comes 14 years after he retired at The Oval, shortly after winning the Ashes for a second time.
A superb all-rounder combining destructive batting with ferocious bursts of fast bowling – look no further than his legendary spells against Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis – as a cricketer Flintoff had it all.
Arguably the biggest star of England’s Ashes triumph in 2005, he was famously pictured bleary eyed alongside Kevin Pietersen as the England team attended a reception at Downing Street after beating Australia to regain the urn for the first time in 19 years.
Flintoff was never shy about his drinking and in his autobiography Ashes To Ashes, he detailed how he once arrived to practice ‘smelling of booze’ and how he drank 10 pints of Guinness on a cricket tour aged 17.
And drinking cost him the England vice-captaincy in 2007, when he was removed from the position by then-coach Duncan Fletcher for the infamous pedalo incident in St Lucia.
England’s World Cup campaign in the West Indies had got off to an inauspicious start with Flintoff, who had just captained the Test side to a humiliating 5-0 loss in Australia, out for a golden duck in the defeat against New Zealand.
The Lancastrian decided to head out for a consolatory drink and boarded a pedalo at night in a bid to find the boat on which he believed Sir Ian Botham was having a nightcap.
The legendary all-rounder was one of the stars of England’s 2005 Ashes triumph
Flintoff was famously pictured bleary eyed alongside Kevin Pietersen (right) as the England team attended a reception at Downing Street
But in 2007 he faced the wrath of coach Duncan Fletcher (right) and was sacked as vice-captain after having to be rescued after boarding a pedalo on a night out
Flintoff retired after winning the Ashes for a second time back in 2009
Botham was in the West Indies covering the tournament as a TV pundit, but the meeting with Flintoff never happened as the latter had to be rescued after the pedalo capsized and faced Fletcher’s wrath the following morning.
‘It was a real low point,’ the father-of-four recalled on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories on ITV in 2014.
‘I had this press conference and walked across the hotel reception – and the England fans were shaking their heads.
‘I couldn’t make eye contact with them and I thought: “This isn’t good.”‘
Speaking on BBC’s Desert Island Discs in 2015, Flintoff, who has been teetotal for almost a decade now, pinpointed the incident as the moment he realised drinking had become a problem.
The 45-year-old has been similarly open about dealing with depression and how closely his mental struggles intertwined with his drinking.
‘It’s not so much the drinking, it’s actually the reasons why you are drinking,’ he explained on the radio show.
‘When you are drinking because you are trying to get away from something I think that is when you have got to look at everything.
‘One of the reasons I probably stopped drinking is that I am prone to suffer from depression. Drinking doesn’t help one bit. I don’t touch it now.’
Flintoff (pictured here in 2014) has been teetotal for almost a decade now
The 45-year-old has been open about his battles with bulimia and depression
Flintoff (left) began hosting Top Gear in 2018 after launching his TV career in 2010
READ MORE Will Top Gear return to our screens? Freddie Flintoff’s horror crash hangs BBC show in the balance amid ongoing health and safety review and departure of its editorial director
Speaking to The Sun in 2021, he added: ‘I was boozing to try to change the way I felt and that’s when it became a problem.
‘If I latched on, I would get into drinking, and not just for one session. It would go on for weeks and that couldn’t continue.’
Flintoff has always worn his heart on his sleeve and was typically direct when he was the subject of the BBC documentary Living With Bulimia three years ago.
He candidly admitted his struggles with the eating disorder, revealing they had begun after he was shamed for his appearance by the press when his international career was in its infancy.
The struggles continued throughout his career and long into retirement, with Flintoff admitting he had made himself sick after eating even in the 12 months leading up to the filming of the documentary.
Flintoff first revealed he suffered from bulimia in 2014, but only sought medical advice when the BBC documentary aired six years later.
‘I don’t want to be a statistic,’ he said, revealing he had been moved to speak out to help raise awareness on why eating disorders remain a stigma for men.
‘I don’t want to be read about in years to come, that something’s happened to me.’
By then, he was already an established TV star.
Having retired from cricket after winning the Ashes in 2009, within a year he had reinvented himself in the hugely popular Sky programme A League of their Own alongside Jamie Redknapp and James Corden.
Three seasons of Flintoff: Lord of the Fries on Sky One with Rob Penn followed, along with appearances on podcasts and reality shows, before he became the new host of Top Gear alongside Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris in 2018.
But as Mail Sport reported on Thursday, Flintoff was seriously emotionally and physically affected by the crash, which leaves his TV career in doubt and the future of Top Gear uncertain.
The former England star is still sporting the gruesome facial injuries from his crash
As reported by Mail Sport, Flintoff was seriously emotionally and physically affected by the crash and a return to TV remains up in the air
So could Flintoff return to cricket on a permanent basis?
‘There’s no reason why this cannot be the start of something,’ England cricket director Rob Key, who orchestrated Flintoff’s return, told Mail Sport.
‘There’s nothing better than being back in the team thinking you’re having an impact. Even without the accident I think he would have been back at some point.
‘But one step at a time. […] We’ll take it as it comes but it’s been good for him to be out thinking of something other than the crash.’
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