Robbie’s still on the ball

Robbie Savage    15/2/2011   Derby County FC
Robbie Savage 15/2/2011 Derby County FC
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Strictly Come Dancing contestant Robbie Savage will take a brief break from the dancefloor to head to the region for a tour of BBC classic Question of Sport.

Katy Wheeler caught up with the former footballer to talk soccer and salsa.

HIS no-nonsense attitude on the pitch means Robbie Savage has become hot property now he’s hung up his football boots.

Today the colourful character finds himself juggling a number of roles including Radio 5 live pundit, columnist for the Daily Mirror and a contestant on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, which starts tomorrow night.

When I speak to him, he’s wearing his Question of Sport hat to talk about his role in the hit BBC show’s UK tour.

Next month, he’ll be joined by sporting legends snooker player Dennis Taylor, former rugby player Rory Underwood and Olympian and Sunderland University chancellor Steve Cram for the Newcastle leg of the Question of Sport tour.

Robbie, who made more than 600 appearances on the pitch, says it promises to be a top night out.

“It’s completely different from the TV show,” he explains. “It’s more fun and you can interact with the audience more, you can get more close and personal.

“In TV you are filming in front of a couple of hundred people and you have to be more straight laced, but the theatre is like a boy’s own tour, what happens in the theatre, stays in the theatre.

“I’ve played at Sunderland lots of times in my career, and the North East is a great sporting place. I’m sure the audiences will enjoy the banter.”

Robbie, who received 89 yellow cards in the Premier League, and the rest of the panel will join presenter Sue Barker and captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell for the second UK tour of the BBC sporting quiz.

After celebrating 40 years on air and making a record-breaking 943 episodes, the tour’s been created to give fans the chance to see their favourite features, such as the picture board, mystery guest and what happened next, in person.

Translating the TV show into a theatre setting has also allowed the team to add some new twists and surprises to the show. Audience members become part of the action, directly posing questions to the teams and getting involved in some of the rounds.

Speaking about the show’s popularity, Robbie said: “I think it’s been going for so long because it changes all the time, different rounds and different guests and Sue Barker is wonderful.

“It’s something I used to watch as a kid and something I watch now.”

Of course, Question of Sport is not the only BBC show Robbie’s being linked with.

The 36-year-old’s been hitting the headlines for his forthcoming appearance on Strictly, where he’s been paired with Ola Jordan.

He said: “I didn’t realise I was going to be doing Strictly when I signed up for Question of Sport so I’ll have to juggle the two.

“I train every day for Strictly so I may have to bring Ola to Question of Sport with me, which I’m sure the lads will be pleased about.

“I’ve been training for three weeks now and I’m ready to get out there and do it. I wasn’t going to do the show when I was approached, but my mum is a massive fan of the show so I’m doing it for my mum.

“The training is harder than being a footballer, it’s eight hours non-stop every day. They are not classed as such, but the dancers are most definitely athletes.”

He added: “I’ve had some stick from the lads about it, but I’ve had a lot of support too. Rio Ferdinand has sent me some messages and has sent me a Stay on Your Feet T-shirt to wear in training.”

In January Robbie announced on Twitter that he would be retiring at the end of the season to concentrate on his growing media career.

And he says he’s relishing the various opportunities that are coming his way.

“I played football for 20 years and I loved it. I idolised it,” he said. “But I’m loving all the new opportunities at the minute. I have so much going on.

“I have a lot going on with Match of the Day 2 and a new contract with ESPN. I’ve got everything I need. I don’t need to do Strictly or Question of Sport, but I enjoy doing them.

“I’m quite shy and insecure off the field, so this gives me a chance to come out of my shell.”

l Question of Sport is at Newcastle City Hall on October 25. A different line-up – Dennis Taylor, Steve Cram, Jonathan Agnew and Gary Pallister – will appear at the venue on October 26.

Tickets are available from 0844 847 2549 or online at www.aquestionofsporttour.com