Christine Bleakley is “the perfect and only choice” to join her former colleague Adrian Chiles on the GMTV sofa — according to breakfast television veteran Eamonn Holmes.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Holmes gave his full backing to the fellow Northern Ireland presenter jumping ship from the BBC to ITV amid reports that she had negotiated a £6m deal with the commercial broadcaster.
The Belfast breakfast show old-hand said Christine and Chiles would be a powerful force in breathing new life into the GMTV brand.
Speculation on Christine’s future has been intensifying since her former One Show presenter - and close pal Adrian Chiles left the popular BBC magazine show to join ITV.
Last week it was reported Christine had parted ways with her management team because they wanted her to stay at the BBC.
Now reports suggest the ambitious 31-year-old has negotiated a £6m four-year contract with ITV to join her pal on the GMTV sofa.
Holmes described Christine as “the perfect and only choice” to take the early morning sofa — but also warned of its impact on her sleeping patterns.
“I think Christine is perfect for GMTV. I told her, quite recently, that Chiles would not work without her,” he said.
“Together they make a very good brand.
“They are worth more as a team than as individuals. Christine moving — (it) had to happen.
“People want to wake up to Christine and she will not go wrong.”
Holmes, who has been hosting breakfast television for 20 years including a long stint on the GMTV sofa himself, said he expects an overhaul of the ITV morning show.
“It is a big task for Christine, because GMTV is a broken brand,” he said.
“I think the name — GMTV — will have have to go. There is now a great opportunity for the show to make a fresh start.”
The Sky News Sunrise host had some advice for 31-year-old Bleakley about waking up at 3am.
“She should expect to age significantly. And expect an end to her nightlife, unless she wants to look like me. Days get longer and sleep gets less. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, it’s something you never get used to,” he added.
“But saying all that, I love doing my time during the day and I get great delight from it.”
He also warned Christine to prepare for even more intrusion into her private life, which has been under the spotlight since she began romancing England and Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard last year.
“Christine will be under the microscope as an individual like never before,” Holmes added.
“It will rack up the pressure which she hasn’t had to experience before.”
Chiles has made no bones about his desire to rekindle his successful on-screen partnership with Bleakley.
“There is no doubt that Christine and I will work together again. Now whether that is in September on GMTV or at some distant point in the future remains to be seen,” he said.
He will be the new face of GMTV and will also anchor ITV’s World Cup football coverage after leaving the BBC in a dispute over the broadcaster’s plans to replace him on the One Show Friday programme with Chris Evans.
. . . but Eamonn’s not so enamoured with ex-colleague Penny
Eamonn Holmes has hit back at claims from his former GMTV colleague Penny Smith that he is “moody and PMT-like” — saying it was like “the pot calling the kettle black”.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Ms Smith, who recently left GMTV after 17 years, pulled no punches about her time on the sofa and her experience of working with Belfast-born Holmes.
“I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences when I say that possibly the most uncomfortable period of my time at GMTV was during the partnership of Eamonn and Anthea. There was no love lost between them and it was difficult not to get caught up in the politics,” she said.
“Also, I’m not sure Eamonn is a huge fan of early starts. I’ve got friends who one approaches with caution when they have PMT, but they are nothing compared to Eamonn when he was in a mood. I learned to keep a low profile when Manchester United lost a game. And yet he makes me laugh out loud and is a brilliant presenter who simply has a knack of knowing what will work on television. When Fiona joined him on the sofa, things calmed down.”
Holmes started at GMTV in 1992, with his tumultuous relationship with Anthea Turner between 1994 and 1996 well documented.
He left to join Sky News in October 2005 to present the new-look Sunrise programme.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Holmes, who hadn’t read the article, said he was taking the comments as a joke.
“It is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. But, I presume she meant it as a joke, as many of her jokes don’t come off as jokes,” he said.
“Perhaps there was frustration because I held on to the job at GMTV for so long that others didn’t get a promotion.”