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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Tuffers: The future
By Tom Fordyce

Phil Tufnell relaxes with champagne and a cigarette
Champagne and a fag - probably both isotonic

Sports fans have known for years what Phil Tufnell had to offer.

Leave aside for a moment the debate over his true worth as a cricketer. As a source of belly laughs, he had few equals in the world of sport.

Now, thanks to his starring role in "I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here!", Tuffers' fame has spread across the country.

What effect will victory in the jungle have on the laconic lover of fags when he returns from Australia?

Are the TV offers pouring in? Has his agent's phone been ringing off the hook?

"It certainly has," confirms Mike Martin. "It's been very busy, but we're coping. It's all good stuff.

"We're lining up all sorts of things. But everything is being kept on ice until he comes back and we can talk things over. At the moment it's all up in the air with regard to what he will commit to doing.

"I'm not looking to say anything at the moment because I haven't run anything by him, and we need to sit down and discuss it."

Tufnell retired from first-class cricket so he could take part on "I'm A Celebrity". Was it part of a masterplan to build his public profile?

"No, in fairness," insists Martin. "He was going out there to have a bit of fun, as he has said all along. There was obviously the prospect of seeing what came off the back of it, but there was a Phil Tufnell before this programme.

The I'm A Celebrity contestants
Tuffers meets his celebrity pals for the first time

"There were plenty of offers out there for him to do things after cricket, and the programme's just a nice little help on the way."

Diana van Bunnens, agent to former England captain Michael Atherton, is a little more specific.

"He will certainly be in demand on chat shows," she says, "and he is a great after-dinner speaker.

"I've seen him myself, and he is very good - he lounges around on stage with a cigarette and a glass of wine and is very entertaining.

"It all depends on whether he catches the public's attention. Tara Palmer-Tompkinson got a few bits out of last year's show, and Phil might well get a quirky advert to do."

Tufnell's rising fame is confirmed by Celebdaq, the BBC's celebrity share-trading game where a person's value fluctuates according to the amount of press coverage they receive.

"Tufnell is hot property," says Celebdaq reporter Libby Potter. "Because people like him, Tufnell shares have been doing well.

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"He was the one people were talking about as soon as Danniella Westbrook went - making him the Tony Blackburn of this year's show.

"I think he'll continue to be a sound investment for that reason. It's the percentage increase in a celeb's value that's important for people playing Celebdaq against each other in offices - and Phil's the best bet right now.

"He's one of the cast who actually has prospects now the show has finished. There are already rumours about him doing X, Y and Z."

What about in the long run? Can the Cat, as Tufnell is nicknamed, keep his profile high in the coming months?

"It's hard to say," says Potter. "Tony Blackburn got a lot of publicity off the back of last year's show - a new radio show, Oldie of the Year, a few chat shows - but most of it only lasted a month or so.

"Phil Tufnell has a better chance as far as Celebdaq is concerned, because the system rewards controversy and Phil is more likely to make headlines for falling out of some bar or shacking up with a new woman than Blackburn ever was."




SEE ALSO
Tufnell: King of the jungle
12 May 03  |  Entertainment
Tufnell wins jungle show
12 May 03  |  Entertainment
Tufnell: Hero or villain?
11 Apr 03  |  Cricket

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