“We still make a winning team”
Strictly winner Abbey Clancy reveals how she and footballer husband Peter Crouch survived their storms
Abbey Clancy certainly has many things to celebrate these days — she's barely been out of the limelight since she won Strictly Come Dancing and she's enjoying a personal contentment that at one stage she barely dared hope for.
The willowy blonde, 28-year-old model and TV presenter and her husband, footballer Peter Crouch, seem to have come through the storms that almost destroyed their relationship and are now in a good place as they approach their third wedding anniversary in June.
“The first time I saw Pete, I knew he was the one for me and I still feel like that,” Abbey says adoringly.
It's not been easy to get to this point, and their love for each other has been tested many times with problems in their relationship being humiliatingly played out under the full glare of the public spotlight. In the early days of their romance in 2006, it was rumoured he had dumped her over stories she'd cheated on him with an ex-boyfriend. But all seemed well when he proposed in 2009.
In 2010, though, when she was pregnant with their first child, she was traumatised by the allegation, strongly denied by Peter, that he'd slept with a prostitute. She recently described that time as “horrendous ... for any woman who is pregnant or had a baby, it's tough”.
They married in 2011 three months after their daughter, Sophia, now three, was born and, she says, their partnership is stronger than ever.
“Pete's an incredible person, a great dad, and my best mate. I'm so proud of him,” she says, as she reveals he's not taking any chances with their hard-won happiness and works hard to keep the passion in their relationship very much alive.
“He regularly whisks me off to do nice things. He says, ‘Come on, we're going out, just the two of us' and takes me for a meal or a spa day. He knows it's important when you're looking after a child that you still do special things together.”
Clancy, who met the handsome, 6ft 7in Stoke City striker in a Liverpool bar when she was 19, is fondly indulgent about his hit-and-miss romantic gestures.
“He's romantic but in his own funny way. He does nice surprises but there's always something a little bit wrong with them! Like he got me a ring engraved for our wedding anniversary but put the wrong date on it. But that's Pete, and he definitely tries!”
Down-to-earth Abbey was raised in one of the toughest areas of Liverpool and left school at 16 determined to follow her dream of a showbusiness career, before becoming a runner-up in Britain's Next Top Model. She was recently dropped as the face of Ultimo bras because she stripped naked to promote Scholl & Veet's Dare to Bare campaign. She says her own personal philosophy gets her through the rocky times.
“I found it's best not to care about what other people think; what matters is your family and your friends, the people who know you. I don't live my life for other people and I've never tried to be something I'm not. I've even heard it suggested that
I went on Strictly to prove I was a nice person in real life! But why would I do that? Anyway, there's no ‘#different' side to me, I'm always just like I am.”
Her domestic harmony with Peter — they both love being hands-on parents and have chosen not to have a nanny — is even more proof that although during the first year of marriage they had “terrible fights”, they've now both come to accept “nobody's perfect, we all have our faults, our ups and downs”.
They drew even closer when Peter (33), a former England star, proved his devotion as a father by looking after their daughter during the four months while his wife took part in Strictly.
Yet before she had their first child, she admits she had doubts about how he would take to fatherhood: “I'm so surprised at what a great dad Pete is — I was a bit worried about him handling it as he's not come from a big family like me. But even though Pete's never really been around babies before, he's taken it like a duck to water and absolutely adores Sophia,” she says.
“I'm like the mum who makes the rules and Pete's the fun one who takes her to the park, plays great games and splashes about with her at bathtime.”
Without his support, she says, it would have been impossible for her to win the competition in December where she impressed with her charismatic, positive personality as much as dancing talent.
“Pete's support for me during that time was amazing. It was hard juggling the competition with looking after the baby — I thought I'd be voted out in a couple of weeks — but when it went on, Pete stepped in and coped with help from his mum and mine.
“He picked Sophia up from nursery after football, got her dinner if I was going to be late home, and never complained, he just got on with it,” says Abbey.
“Being on the show was one of the happiest periods of my life and Pete enjoyed watching me so much. He was jealous, though — he loves to dance and we often have a twirl around the living room. If they could find him a 6ft 7in dance partner, it would be perfect!”
While she's never been content simply to be a WAG housewife and is keen to “stay independent and earn my own money”, there's no question about her favourite job.
“Becoming a mum's my biggest achievement and I've loved every second of it. Every day it gets better. Sophia's so clever it's beyond belief, she knows all her letters and the whole Arctic Monkeys album word for word. She's definitely a character,” she boasts.
“I feel so lucky I have a beautiful child and a great husband. One of the reasons Pete and I work so well together is that every day we have a laugh. Obviously we have our little bickers like anyone else, but we can always have a laugh — that's when I'm not shouting at him for leaving stuff around the house!”
While his parenting skills are spot-on, Peter's not a dab-hand at housework, she admits: “It wouldn't be safe to let him cook! The only thing he's good at with his height is changing light bulbs.”
They'd love to have more children, but Abbey's taking life as it comes.
“We both want lots more children, I think soon. Pete's very family-orientated but he's surrounded by women most of the time at home, so he needs a boy now otherwise he'll turn into a girl!”
Winners who quickstepped to success
Alesha Dixon — the former member of girl band Mis-Teeq won with professional dancer Matthew Cutler in 2007 and went on to enjoy a solo hit with The Boy Does Nothing. She returned to the show as a judge on 2009.
A panel judge on Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent since 2012, Alesha became a new mum for the first time last year to a baby girl, Azura, now seven months old. However, she still peruses a solo singing career rather than continuing to dance.
Tom Chambers — the former Holby City and Waterloo Road actor won the show with his Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers inspired number with Camilla Dallerup in 2008.
The married father of two young children added dance to his professional portfolio for a time and created the role of Jerry Travers in the Top Hat production which toured the UK until he left last year.
Harry Judd — the hunky McFly drummer won the series with his professional partner Aliona Vilani in 2011. He has since married the former Escala violinist Izzy Johnston but has not returned to dance. He is now touring as part of the McFly and Busted mash-up band, McBusted.