Strictly Come Dancing 2004 winner and ex soap actress Jill Halfpenny has stuck up for Alesha Dixon, saying that the judge can “represent the everyman”.

Alesha has come under fire for replacing Arlene Phillips on the dancing show.

But the Eastenders and Coronation Street star told BBC Leeds: “Alesha is going to be talking to us from a completely entertainment view, she’s not going to be talking about heel leads or anything like that – in a way, she’s probably going to represent the everyman.

“She’s a lovely girl and I think she’ll do really well.”

The actress said it was inevitable that Strictly would choose to shake up the show.

“Sometimes shows decide to take a different direction – they decide to move on for whatever reason they think.

“Unfortunately we are losing Arlene who was fantastic, and who I’ve got a lot of respect for, but we’re gaining Alesha, who I feel exactly the same about.”

Jill tipped Coronation Street’s Craig Kelly as in the running to win this year’s show.

She said: “I’ve never seen him dance and I don’t know if he’s any good, I just have a feeling that he and Flavia [Cacace] are just very well matched as a couple.”

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