There is no bitterness from Peterborough born Aston Merrygold when his controversial exit from Strictly Come Dancing is raised.
The former JLS star says he has already moved on after surprisingly being knocked out of the hugely popular competition in week seven, a decision which prompted an unusual amount of anger on social media for what is essentially a celebrity reality TV contest.
However, Aston admitted seeing thousands of people slam the judges for booting him out was quite enjoyable, as it showed how much support he had with the wider public.
In an exclusive interview with the Peterborough Telegraph, the former Jack Hunt School pupil said: “I can’t help but love the reaction. It just shows the support I’ve got. I can’t not be happy for the fact people were outraged and upset I left. I was thankful for the support.”
The dance which put and end to Aston and partner Janette Manrara’s hopes of a Strictly triumph was the Viennese Waltz which found no favour with judge Craig Revel Horwood who gave it a four.
And despite the other judges giving Aston a seven he found himself in the bottom two following the public vote, leaving him in a dance off against Mollie King and AJ.
After the dance off judges Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli opted to save Aston, but Craig and Shirley Ballas chose Mollie, with head judge Shirley’s vote taken as the final decision in a tie.
Reflecting on the decision, Aston said: “We had one bad week and it turned out to be the last. You just have to take it on the chin and get over it. For me it’s like, what next?”
Asked whether he felt Craig had been harsh scoring him a four, he replied: “I’m not an expert on this kind of thing. The only person I take the opinion of from the show is Janette and when she has watched it back she said it was not a 4. But Craig is entitled to his opinion.”
Aston’s friend Louis Smith, the Olympic medal winning gymnast from Peterborough, won Strictly in 2012, and his comment to Aston that he would love the show turned out to be correct.
Speaking about his Strictly experience, Aston said: “I loved it. I had friends who have done the show before like Louis Smith and Alesha Dixon who tell you, ‘you will have a great time’.
“You can never really imagine everything that goes into the show and the amount of fun you are going to have. It was just amazing to be a part of it.
“It’s the biggest show on TV for a reason. You can see that when it’s on.
“As much as it’s a competition, for myself and every single person it’s the weirdest competition to be a part of.
“It does not feel like a competition in any way until you’re in the bottom two. You are standing there wanting people to do really well. You want them to get 10s.
“It’s honestly the weirdest scenario to be a part of. Everybody was way out of their comfort zone.
“But I made a whole lot of new friends which is amazing.”
Backing appeal to make it the best Christmas ever
Despite having to leave Strictly Come Dancing earlier than he would like, things are looking up for Aston Merrygold.
The former Jack Hunt School pupil is a business partner in a new dance studio in Vauxhall, London, which opens in January, and he is also touring in April as a solo artist.
But the most special event in his life will be the upcoming birth of his first child with partner Sarah Richards.
The due date for the baby (they do not want to find out the gender before it is born) is in the new year, and becoming a dad only re-enforces how special a time Christmas is for children.
So much so that, for the second year running, the former JLS star is lending his support to Cash for Kids Mission Christmas, an annual Christmas toy appeal which last year generated upwards of £15.5 million in gifts and donations which were distributed to more than 360,000 disadvantaged kids across the UK.
Aston said: “It’s mad to think there are kids in this country that won’t be able to experience Christmas, more so probably this year because I’m going to be a dad for the first time.
“Christmas should be a magical time and Mission Christmas is trying to make a difference.
“When you sit down and someone is talking to you all about their experiences of young people and children who do not experience Christmas, it’s heartbreaking.
“This is something I have to put my time and effort in with and really spread the word for.”
This Christmas will be the last time Aston does not have the responsibilities of looking after a young child, but as Sarah’s due date nears he admits he cannot wait to become a dad for the first time.
He said: “It’s really exciting for myself and my partner Sarah. It’s going to be our last Christmas where we can chill out but not expect to be woken up at 5am!
“It’s a special time. We’re just thinking what it’s going to be like. We’re going to savour these moments.
“Everyone is like ‘are you prepared?’. But I do not think you can be.”
Aston and Sarah will be staying close to their local hospital this Christmas, meaning for the first time the 29-year-old will not be spending the festive period in Peterborough.
But he cannot wait to return to his home city and show off his newborn to his friends who still live here.
He added: “It’s the first time I’m not going to be in Peterborough for Christmas which is crazy.
“I’ve still got some of my oldest friends there and they all need to meet the new baby. I can’t wait to start the new journey.”
Aston Merrygold is asking everyone to donate an extra gift for Cash for Kids Mission Christmas http://www.cashforkids.uk.com/mission.
Text MISSION to 70808 to give £5, or donate a new and unwrapped present at any Wickes store by Sunday, December 17.