PAUL NEWMAN: Freddie Flintoff is back where he belongs after a long and painful journey following his life-threatening accident on Top Gear – and cricket will be better for his secretive return to the heart of England’s dressing room
- Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is back in his rightful place in England dressing room
- It has been a long and painful journey, including his shocking accident
- Flintoff hasn’t sought money for this series and is enjoying his involvement
It was a journey that started before the serious accident while filming Top Gear that could so easily have taken his life. And it is one that saw Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff this week return to what many consider his rightful place in the heart of the England cricket team dressing room.
That journey has been a long and very painful one for a national treasure who took an unexpected turn when he retired after a brief playing comeback in 2014 by embarking on a varied and very successful career away from the game in television.
But it was one that was perhaps accelerated by the most distressing of circumstances when Flintoff, 45, had that shocking accident late last year that saw him badly injured and in hospital for five weeks before beginning a long recovery away from the public eye.
The scale of his injuries were still evident when he made the first high profile step in what has been a low-key and almost secretive return to the game by joining England in Cardiff for the start of their ODI series against New Zealand.
But it was soon clear it was the old ‘Freddie’ who was back passing on his knowledge to the England players in what is being described as a mentoring role for the rest of this 50-over series and almost certainly beyond into a more permanent position in the England set-up.
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s return to cricket was perhaps accelerated by his shocking accident
Flintoff hasn’t sought nor been given any money for his time working in this four-match series
The former England star is loving being back in the dressing room again without any cynicism
So keen and enthusiastic has Flintoff been about this new chapter in his life that Mail Sport understands he has neither sought nor been given any money for his time working in this four-match series.
He is just loving being back in the dressing room with none of the disillusionment and cynicism he appeared to experience when he first stepped away from cricket. An ECB source told Mail Sport they will be taking things slowly as he has only just returned to the public domain but it does appear Flintoff is back for good.
‘I first started talking to him about getting back into the game before he had his accident,’ revealed David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, the man who nurtured the young Flintoff when he first emerged as an outstanding prospect with Lancashire and then England Under 19s.
‘He could so easily have gone straight into coaching as soon as he finished playing but I think this is the better way of doing it. He took a break and went off and did all sorts of things. He was even a boxer at one point! But I think we can now say Freddie is back home.’
Flintoff’s presence within English cricket this season has been conducted in private. It has been driven by his great friend and now managing director of the England team in Rob Key who has encouraged Freddie to return without the full glare of publicity.
‘I think he was at three of the Ashes Tests,’ said Bumble. ‘It was funny in Manchester. Freddie was there virtually incognito, with a hat and scarf when he was in public areas, but he ended up watching the game in a little room in the media centre at Old Trafford with Key about ten yards from all the press and broadcasters.
‘He didn’t want any fuss so he made sure they didn’t know he was there. But I had a chat with him and he was in good spirits. He’s clearly keen to get back and I think he will be a great coach. He has so much experience and I reckon he wouldn’t take any nonsense. He will be forthright with the players.
‘I can see him working with younger players first and seeing how that goes. But it’s terrific news that he’s back and I was delighted to see him with the England team in Cardiff.’
Flintoff’s involvement in the national team began with him spending time with England U19s
Flintoff was seen with Steve Harmison at an age-group match between Lancashire and Durham
The TV host, pictured here with co-presenters Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness, had been filming the latest series of the show, which was due to be aired this autumn
Flintoff’s involvement in the national team began with him spending time earlier this summer with England Under 19s. He was also seen with his great friend and fellow 2005 Ashes hero Steve Harmison at an age-group match between Lancashire and Durham watching their respective sons in action. Flintoff’s boys Rocky and Corey are both said to be highly promising young players within the Lancashire set-up.
Then, unannounced and in the low-key style he prefers, Flintoff was at Sophia Gardens, still almost incognito in one of the bucket hats that have been fashionable with England players and support staff throughout this summer. Incognito, at least, until Mail Sport broke news of his presence towards the end of Friday’s game.
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