His public image as a boisterous, beer swilling one of the lads was sealed in the public mind with his exuberant Ashes victory celebrations and a visit to No 10 that saw him put his feet up on the Cabinet table.
But Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has revealed his more thoughtful, private side in a revealing appearance on Desert Island Discs, in which he talks about his struggle with depression, his decision to quit drinking and his devotion to family life.
The former England cricket captain and now star of TV panel shows such as A League of their Own, told Kirsty Young, the programme’s presenter, that he turned his back on the all-night drinking bouts for which he became famous after making a documentary about depression in sport, in 2012.
He said: “I’m prone to depression. Drinking doesn’t help one bit. I don’t touch it now.”
Rachael Wools and Andrew Flintoff
Flintoff said he realised his drinking had started to become a problem after a run of poor form and defeats that saw him sacked as England vice-captain in 2007 then getting drunk and into difficulties after taking a pedal boat out to sea after a World Cup defeat in St Lucia.
“It’s not so much the drinking as the reason why you’re drinking that is the problem. When you’re drinking because you’re trying to get away from things you’ve got to look at it. That’s not right,” he said. “My heart goes out to anyone out there who is struggling now.”
Speaking of his upbringing in Lancashire Flintoff, who chose Elvis Presley’s I Just Can’t Help Believing and Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon among his desert island records, said he never played cricket at his state school in Preston, but learnt it from his father, a British Aerospace production line worker.
Andrew Flintoff holds the Ashes trophy after England defeated Australia on the fourth day of the fifth and final Ashes cricket Test match
“Cricket was seen as the posh sport,” he said, adding that he would never have dreamt of walking back home through his local council estates in his cricket whites.
Now Flintoff says his greatest joy is being at home with his wife and their three children – even if they ignore him when he’s trying to teach them cricket.