KATIE HIND reveals the truth behind Phillip Schofield’s comeback rumours: Sources say axed star is still ‘furious’ one year on, feeling ‘thrown under the bus’

KATIE HIND reveals the truth behind Phillip Schofield’s comeback rumours: Sources say axed star is still ‘furious’ one year on, feeling ‘thrown under the bus’

An evening out with I’m A Celebrity host Declan Donnelly, captured by the paparazzi, was bound to prompt speculation.

Was former television star Phillip Schofield about to make a sensational comeback?

The dinner, which took place close to the fallen star’s West London home, could be interpreted in many ways: as Dec is also close friends with Holly Willoughby, some wondered if he was acting as a go-between for the former best friends, or whether the meal was part of a cleverly choreographed rehabilitation plan to bring Schofield back to our screens, perhaps to ITV, with everyone agreeing to forgive and forget?

Absolutely not, I’m told.

This weekend marks a year since Schofield’s epic tumble from grace, when, after years of lying about his long-term romance with a much younger This Morning colleague, he decided to tell the truth in a jaw-dropping mea culpa to the Mail, in which he apologised for lying to this newspaper — to me — and also his bosses and viewers.

The reaction to this gushing outpouring of regret was not what he expected. He was immediately dumped by YMU, the fearsome talent agency that had represented him for more than 25 years, and forced to resign from ITV.

Former This Morning host Phillip Schofield, 62, was pictured earlier this month smiling with I'm A Celebrity star Declan Donnelly, 48, charging rumours that a return to TV for the axed presenter is on the cards

Former This Morning host Phillip Schofield, 62, was pictured earlier this month smiling with I’m A Celebrity star Declan Donnelly, 48, charging rumours that a return to TV for the axed presenter is on the cards

But, as insiders tell me, the past 12 months have done nothing to dampen Schofield’s self-belief. He remains furious and still sees himself as the victim of the saga.

There have been rumours circulating that Schofield was to take legal action against ITV, where he also hosted quiz show The Cube and the now defunct British Soap Awards. His lawyer, Jonathan Coad, denies this, however.

Yet wild whispers continue that he will return to ITV, his home for almost 30 years, where he made his name as the king of daytime TV, alongside Holly Willoughby on the This Morning sofa.

So far, every executive I have mentioned this to has either looked at me as if I’m mad, or immediately explained what absolute nonsense it is.

‘We don’t want him, why would we want him back?’ asked one senior member of staff at the network. ‘The place is much nicer without him.’

But perhaps the more surprising reason there won’t be a return is, I’m told, due to his conviction that he was wronged by ITV, where he believes he was a ‘loyal servant’ of the channel.

During his epic tumble from grace, Mr Schofield's failing friendship with ITV co-host Holly Willoughby, 43, became a national fascination

During his epic tumble from grace, Mr Schofield’s failing friendship with ITV co-host Holly Willoughby, 43, became a national fascination

‘Phillip firmly believes that he has been mistreated by ITV. He thinks he was thrown under the bus. From some of what he says, he feels he is the victim,’ a source told me.

As everyone knows, however, there is a real victim in the story: the star-struck young man, who first met Schofield when he was just 15, during a visit to his theatre school in the North West of England. A year on, life for him has been far from rosy.

He is still struggling to come to terms with the relationship and how infamous it became — particularly across social media. After leaving ITV with a pay out, insiders say he went abroad. There was a stint at another terrestrial broadcaster before life in the industry became too much and he left to work in a pub.

Although the press had agreed not to publish his name, it became an open secret, making his job behind the bar impossible. Today, apart from having the services of a lawyer at London-based firm Mishcon de Reya, he has been cut adrift by the celebrity world he loved so much.

‘He had so many friends at ITV, he was extremely popular and had hoped to build a career there. It’s such a shame,’ says a source.

Yet, according to the source, Schofield ‘thinks he was the fall guy. He can’t work out why he was the one who had to go from This Morning last May’. The BBC, I’m told, ‘won’t touch him’ and neither will other networks. Once said to be worth £8 million, his life today couldn’t be more different.

Gone are the many industry friends who had once so enjoyed being in his orbit. Gone, too, are the glitzy parties — who doesn’t remember Phil and Holly going straight to the This Morning studios, slightly dishevelled and still in their evening finery, after winning a National Television Award in 2016?

Instead, there are dog walks, evenings in front of the TV with his daughters Molly and Ruby and visits to Cornwall to see his elderly mother, Pat. He’s been very open about the fact that he’s been undergoing therapy. A visit to his local pub is seen as a ‘treat’ these days.

As for Phil and Holly, who had been close friends since the mid-Noughties when they began hosting Dancing On Ice, it seems, as with ITV there is no way back.

The duo's beloved double-act disintegrated following Mr Schofield's denial about his relationship with a much younger colleague

The duo’s beloved double-act disintegrated following Mr Schofield’s denial about his relationship with a much younger colleague

Which takes me back to that moment, a year ago, and the phone call, on a very ordinary Friday afternoon, that I will never forget.

I didn’t recognise the number: it was Paul Worsley, the boss of YMU talent agency, who’d represented Schofield from the beginning.

‘In half an hour you are going to get a scoop,’ Worsley told me. ‘But before that I want you to know that yesterday we parted company with Phillip.’

I was stunned. What had happened? For months, I had been writing about the increasingly fractious relationship between Holly and Phil and two weeks earlier he’d been ousted from This Morning, with ITV bosses taking her side over the fall out.

Worsley refused to explain any further, other than that the statement would come via Schofield’s lawyer, Jonathan Coad. Then, ping, in my inbox was the most extraordinary email I will ever receive — a full confession which explained how he had engaged in an affair with a young man who was by this time in his 20s — more than 30 years younger than him. Schofield described the romance, which took place behind his wife Stephanie Lowe’s back, as ‘unwise but not illegal’.

Mr Schofield is captured walking his puppy in the rain earlier this week. He has remained off TV screens since he admitted to his relationship a year ago

Mr Schofield is captured walking his puppy in the rain earlier this week. He has remained off TV screens since he admitted to his relationship a year ago

It was the culmintion of a series of events which he had been praying would never happen.

For several years he had been hiding his relationship with the young man. Weeks earlier, I had written a story in the Mail on Sunday about the man being moved off the show following a fall out with Schofield.

All hell broke loose. Schofield instructed his lawyers to use the press regulator IPSO to protect him. However, the younger man refused to go along with it any longer, leaving Schofield in a precarious position. A meeting was arranged, where he decided he’d confess all and make a fresh start.

A mutual non-disclosure agreement, alongside a six figure sum of money, was arranged with the young man. Yet no amount of money could compensate for the total devastation the affair wreaked on his life.

‘It broke his heart that he had to leave it all behind. He is slowly coming to terms with what happened, but it will take some time,’ an ITV insider says. ‘Those around him are furious with what was allowed to happen to him.

‘He lost pretty much everything as a result of being close to Phil. If anyone should be claiming victim status, it’s him.’

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