Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman talks to TV&Satellite Week magazine about potential winners, Simon Cowell and elderly fans…

There are a few changes on Strictly this year, aren’t there?
“They’ve spruced up the set magnificently and some of the professionals have been asked to be part of a show dance team, which will be interesting. Sometimes you need tweaks. It’s like pruning a plant occasionally to keep it healthy, bright and shiny.”

What is the secret of the show’s continued success?
“It is like an old-fashioned variety show: you have got dancing, singers, a live band and Bruce entertaining us with a few jokes. As good as The X Factor is, it probably lends itself more to younger people, but Strictly is truly a family show.”

Who are the stars to watch out for this time?
“I have a feeling in my water that Jimi Mistry will be good and Matt Baker too because he used to be a gymnast. I think Pamela Connolly looks like a goer as she seems quite driven.”

Who will struggle?
“I’m worried about Ann Widdecombe, who I think is going to be the John Sargeant. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for Paul Daniels, nor Peter Shilton even though he is a hero of mine. We had Peter Schmeichel in a previous series and I think goalkeepers are more used to standing with their feet clamped on the ground to stop penalties than nipping around on the balls of their feet.”

What do you think of your reputation as the kinder judge?
“I try to be kinder because I admire the celebrities for doing it. You really see them trying their hardest and working for hours to improve. There is nothing worse than spending a whole week practising and then someone saying, ‘Sorry, you were rubbish.’ It’s not very nice, is it?”

Who would you love to get on the show?
“I wouldn’t mind seeing Jordan, Jonathan Ross or Stephen Fry skipping the light fantastic. I would like to see Simon Cowell, too, then I could go on and sing on The X Factor. It would be a perfect swap, but I think I would do about as well singing as Simon would at dancing.”

You’re judging Dancing with the Stars as well. What is the biggest difference for you?
“The formats are the same, but the American studio audience is more gregarious with lots of whooping so you have more atmosphere, which helps the couples. We British are a little bit more reserved so we just have polite clapping.”

What do you miss when you are in America?
“It is nice to go over there, but I miss my mates and my family. When I go over for the spring series I miss the end of the football season, so I don’t know how West Ham are doing, which is a nightmare.”

What reaction do you get in the street?
“I always get ‘Sev-en’ shouted at me by cabbies. But I’m not Tom Cruise so I don’t get pestered by thousands of people all the time. It is usually just blokes who say, ‘Oh my mum loves you.’ I am a pin-up for the Saga ladies.”

Did you ever imagine the fame Strictly has brought you?
“Oh no. I had been running a dance school for 40 years and I was gradually easing off and then suddenly Strictly came along when I was 60 and it’s been incredible. My life has been great and this has been the cherry on top.”