Former Wigan Athletic star on his 'Strictly fantastic' son!

Once upon a time, the only ball Tommy Widdrington was interested in was the one flying around Springfield Park.
Kai Widdrington, with dance partner AJ OduduKai Widdrington, with dance partner AJ Odudu
Kai Widdrington, with dance partner AJ Odudu

But in recent weeks, the former Wigan Athletic man has been focused on a far bigger, far more famous ball...watching his son, Kai – and dance partner AJ Odudu – competing for the ‘glitterball’ on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’!

Sadly, less than 24 hours before Saturday's Grand Final, AJ and Kai were forced to withdraw from the competition, and will not compete in the showpiece.

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After consulting medical professionals regarding her recent injury, the decision was made that sadly AJ cannot compete for the biggest prize on television.

But that will do nothing to lessen the immense pride dad Tommy has felt for his son as he became a household name to millions.

“He’s done fantastically well,” said Tommy, who spent time on loan with Latics in 1991 as a young player at Southampton. "But as his dad it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

“He’s always been such a competitive lad, and one of those kids that every sport he tried he excelled at.

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“Whether it was football, swimming, karate, golf or dancing – whatever he would have gone into he would have been a success - he just had good hand-eye-feet coordination.

"But what’s really become apparent to me, in the few weeks he’s been on Strictly, is how much of a really, really nice lad he comes across as.

“The way he's sort of protected and looked after his partner, AJ, has been lovely to watch.

"And as a parent, it's just as much if not more important than his dancing, because he'll have that long after the dancing's finished.

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“He’s a people pleaser, and the whole family are just so proud of the way he’s turned out.”

Tommy is also full of praise for Kai's dance partner, AJ.

"I don't know how much people are aware, but AJ hadn't danced at all before the show," said Tommy, who recently became manager of non-league Kings Lynn Town.

"And she has been an absolute warrior as the weeks have gone by.

"I'll tell you what, if she could play centre midfield, I'd pick her this weekend because she's got the heart of a lion - and she's such a lovely lass as well!"

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Although Kai looks like he was born to dance, Tommy says he could easily have followed in the family footsteps and become a footballer.

"He was in the Port Vale Academy when I was still in the Midlands after I finished," said Tommy, whose other son Theo, came through the ranks at Portsmouth, and currently plays for Gosport Borough, while on loan from Havant & Waterlooville.

"We moved down to the south coast and he went to Southampton, and they wanted to keep him on.

"But there was another young lad there in the same position, a lad called Luke Shaw, who was in the team at the time.

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"I'm sure there could have been a position for him there or somewhere else, but he wanted to be the main man, like he does on the dance floor.

"He went to Portsmouth and Bournemouth, and both of them wanted to take him on.

"But he decided his path would lead elsewhere, and it's not ended up too badly."

Tommy admits his short but sweet time at Wigan will stay with him forever.

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“I’ll always say, I had a great time at Wigan, even though it wasn’t for long and was so many years ago,” he added.

"I was a young, brash, confident lad, who kept knocking on the Southampton manager's door, telling him I was good enough to play in the first team.

"He knew very well at the time I wasn't, but he was friends with Bryan Hamilton, who was good enough to take me on loan.

"I'll be forever grateful to them for that because, although I was at a top-fight club, I had no idea how the nuts and bolts of football worked.

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“I still keep in touch with a few guys from the time – Allen Tankard and Nigel Adkins – and whenever I have a pie, it reminds me of my time there.

"There was a great pie shop on the corner of the street where I lived, Poole's, and I was always in there.

“I’ll always look out for Wigan’s result, because I’ll never forget what an indelible period of my career and my life it was.

"There's a few stories I can't have with you, because I was only an 18-year-old lad, and it was a very vibrant time with no Covid restrictions.

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"The motto back then was 'work hard and play hard...and I enjoyed Wigan in all its glory!"

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