David James says he has stopped taking notes at training and is now feeling his way through performances after surviving two Strictly dance-offs.
James and his professional partner Nadiya Bychkova have been in the bottom two in each of the last two weeks on the BBC show but were saved by the judges.
The pair will dance a quickstep to the song From Now On from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman on Saturday night and James hopes people will be able to tell that he has ditched his notes and is instead going with his gut.
“I approached the first couple of dances like a football analysis. I wrote down every step in a notebook and was trying to remember that way,” the retired footballer told the PA news agency.
“The judges said I needed to put more emotion and feeling into it so the notebook has been binned now. I will now just be feeling my way around the dancefloor. It feels exhausting but also quite liberating.”
He admitted getting used to the preparation was one of the biggest challenges.
James, who has teamed up with GambleAware and the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) as an ambassador for the Safer Gambling campaign Bet Regret, said: “Having spent 26 years as a professional footballer, there was a formula for preparing for games.
“What we talked about was preparing for the shows. It’s such a long day on the Saturday that I found myself in a very abnormal situation – not dancing for a few hours, sitting around, and it’s about focusing.
“Nadiya said, ‘look, you need to get warmed up because you might be dancing (again)’. We did it and the focus was ‘bang’.
“We had a minute-and-a-half to do this right and we did it. It’s trying to get so many decades of preparation changed in a very quick time and adjust to a very different competition.
“There is some synergy. In a 90-minute football match a player might touch the ball for a minute-and-a-half, and we dance for a minute-and-a-half. We do 40-plus hours’ training in a week for a minute-and-a-half performance.”
Asked if he had gone for a spray tan yet, James replied: “I’ve promised myself a spray tan if I get to Blackpool – that’s the Mecca of ballroom.”
He was also delighted to have driven the Batmobile before his performance on Movie Night last weekend.
“It was amazing. Nadiya kept it a surprise for me. I thought it was going to be some tacky car that someone had put a bat sticker on, but it was the one from the 1989 film I believe,” he said.
“The amount of people taking photographs and videos was incredible, it was like the England team celebrating victory with fans. It was everyone – old women, young guys, families.”