You had a punch-up with Alastair Campbell recently – what happened?
It was at a charity football match. He came over and pushed me and I shrugged it off, then he came over and pushed me again. I wasn’t going to stand for it so I squared up to him, then his son came flying in with a fist. It got broken up. It looked worse than it was but I enjoyed it.
You’ve been left with a reputation as a dirty tackler…
Yes, but he’s the one who tackled me dirty so I went in a bit harder on him and he didn’t like it so he started pushing me.
Did you break your leg?
No. Some of the papers made out he’d injured my leg but it was a totally separate thing. I went to scoop the ball in from the touchline and went over it and tore a ligament.
Did you worry your dancing days were behind you?
My dancing days have never been in front of me – I’m a terrible dancer. When we were on tour we did ‘movement’ on stage but I wouldn’t call it dancing. We had to do a dance routine at the audition for the band and I watched the video of it a few days ago – I was terrible. I’ve got no idea how I got in.
If the dancing didn’t get you in the band, what did?
I’m not sure. At the first audition our manager, Jane, started calling me Pete Doherty, which wasn’t a great sign. I turned up wearing a tracksuit with my hood up, so I looked a bit chavvy, but played Handbags And Gladrags on the guitar. Maybe she saw something in me no one else did at the time.
What other careers did you have lined up if pop hadn’t worked out?
I wanted to be a footballer but I wasn’t good enough, then wanted to be a pilot but wasn’t clever enough. I went to university for a year, studying geography, but education wasn’t for me at all. Then I decided to give singing another go.
You auditioned for The X Factor – what did you sing?
Flying Without Wings by Westlife, which was a big mistake because it’s your typical boy band song. You don’t meet Simon at the first audition, you sing for a director. He told me: ‘It’s a no’ before I even finished the first chorus. I was 16 and it shattered me. I didn’t sing for two years. There was a girl who was really terrible at the same audition who got through. It turned out she was one of the people they put in the show to laugh at.
What have been the highlights?
Doing the Comic Relief single. We’ve grown up with Comic Relief so to get that so early in our career felt like a real achievement. I’m looking forward to visiting its projects this year.
What kind of fan do you tend to attract?
I’m the oldest in the band but I seem to attract all the young ones. I thought I’d be getting the older ones but Max does because he’s got that ‘bad boy’ look. I’m 23 but look about five and still get ID-ed in shops, so maybe that’s why.
What was the worst gig you did with your Take That tribute band?
Some of the working men’s clubs, singing to 50-year-old guys smoking in the corner. We’d usually get a good reaction but sometimes you’d get guys heckling. I expected it because I was in a Take That tribute band.
What’s the best thing about Bolton?
Fred Dibnah. He used to live along the road from me and had a really nice house. I used to stand outside like a fan. I never saw him and never got his autograph – I feel like there’s a missing piece in my life. I got Sam Allardyce’s autograph when he was in the pub once and Peter Kay’s. That’s it from Bolton.
What have you spent your cash on?
I’m from a normal working-class background so I don’t like spending money on stupid things but I spent £1,000 on a 50in TV, which I love.