Strictly Come Dancing: Dan Walker's City Taxis driver reveals reason he and Nadiya deserve to stay on BBC show
But a taxi driver who has struck up an unlikely bond with the BBC Breakfast host and his professional partner Nadiya Bychkova has leapt to their defence with a brilliant explanation about how they have earned their place in week eight of the hit show.
Lee Ward, who works for City Taxis’ premium City Connect service, has been responsible for ferrying them to and from rehearsals at Hillsborough's City Limits dance studio over the last couple of months in his Mercedes S500 plug-in hybrid.
The trio have been getting on like a house on fire, with Dan recently tweeting about his new friend ‘Wardy’ whom he praised for his punctuality but teasingly lambasted for his ‘terrible lobster gags’.
When The Star caught up with Lee, a 52-year-old dad-of-four, living in Southey Green, he was quick to defend Dan against those detractors who feel he and Nadiya are living on borrowed time after relying on the public vote to save them from the dance-off last weekend.
“I can't believe how bubbly, friendly and down to earth they are, and it really comes across how much they’re enjoying what they’re doing,” he said.
“I think it’s brilliant that he’s extending his working day because his kids wanted him to do the show, not like most people who do reality TV to boost their profile.
“Their work ethic is fantastic and if he keeps putting in the work like he has from the start they should go far. He admits he’s not the best dancer, but he’s learning and improving every week, which means a lot in my book.
"When I heard what some people had been saying I told them to just keep enjoying themselves because it blasts out to the viewers that they’re having the time of their lives. There are always trolls out there. You just have to ignore them.”
Lee admits he had never watched Strictly before, saying his idea of dancing was ‘after several pints down at Roxy’s’, but he is now a big fan of the show.
He also told how Dan had introduced him to the delights of the presenter’s favourite Indian restaurant Prithiraj on Ecclesall Road, where Lee and his wife went for the first time the other week and were blown away by the food.
Dan, who is due to dance the American Smooth with Nadiya on Saturday, this week wrote an impassioned yet typically humble response to a newspaper headline asking ‘How is TV Dan still in show?’.
Writing on Instagram, he told how he received thousands of supportive messages each week from people he said were ‘really enjoying watching Nadiya teaching me to dance’.
“When I’ve watched Strictly in the past I have always liked seeing great dancers but also those who learn to love it and are working hard to improve every week. It’s a TV show and not the world championships,” he added.
“I never thought I would be able to do some of the things Nadiya has taught me. She has given me a confidence that I thought was way beyond me. I just want to learn as many dances as possible.”