A former school friend of I’m A Celebrity star Russell Watson has described how the singer showed no musical talent as a teenager but praised his success.

Darren Goulden, DJ and Irlam Councillor, 53, went to high school with the Salford star unaware of his hidden talent.

He said: “I went to Irlam High School with him, and was quite liked. He didn’t sing at that stage and wasn’t very musical at that stage that I knew of. And he certainly wasn’t in any of the plays or anything like that.

“So to see his success, it was a surprise, but a nice surprise.”

Watson, who spent 13 days in Gwrych Castle for I’m A Celeb, confessed to being a well-liked class clown while at Irlam High, now known as Irlam and Cadishead Academy.

Darren said: “He was quite liked at school. We were in several classes together in the same year, and he was quite a popular lad.”

Irlam born Watson left the castle in a double-elimination with soap star Jessica Plummer after facing his fears on I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here, humorously admitting he was afraid of ‘darkness, claustrophobia, insects, heights’

Prior to his time in the castle, Watson shot to fame with appearances at Wembley with his 1999 rendition of God Save the Queen at Rugby League Challenge Cub Final and many appearances at the Royal Albert Hall.

However, he started his career with performances in Salford.

Darren spoke about his time DJ-ing for the famous Salford singer at a local Irlam pub, Tiger Moth.

The performance, which took place 30 years ago, witnessed the young star grab a mic and take centre stage.

Darren said: “When I left school I became a DJ at a local pub in Irlam called the Tiger Moth, and I was in there one night, and he came in, and he said, ‘Do you mind if I do a few tunes, and I said ‘yeah absolutely no problem’.

“He was nervous, obviously, first time out. But he was fine afterwards and received a round of applause afterwards.

“He got my microphone and did a few covers, a bit of Elvis, and few other things, but certainly wasn’t classical at the stage cause, I don’t think it would’ve gone down too well at the Tiger Moth at that time”.

Tiger Moth Pub in IrlamFollowing this performance, Watson would go on to perform locally until he was discovered at The Working Men’s Club on Wigan Road with his rendition of Puccini’s Turandot ‘Nessun Dorma’.

However, as rose to fame, the singer revealed he split from his wife Helen Watson in 2002, after the release of his first album. 

But the receptionist attributed the split to Watson’s change of heart: from a £90-a-week bolt cutter to a so-called “people’s tenor.”

Darren said: “To be honest since he’s left Irlam, and as soon as his fame hit, he kind of disappeared and left his Missus and his eight-month-old baby.

“I actually run ‘Irlam Live’ down here, and one or two people said to bring him on ‘Irlam Live’, and I was like ‘I’m not sure’ because he’s a bit like Marmite in Irlam and Cadishead if I’m honest.

Irlam Live Poster

“I mean I knew him and wish him all the best, but there’s a lot of people personally wise who are like fame sort of took him and he’s never been back since.”

Watson, 53, was first diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in 2005, followed by another in 2007.

Through intensive surgery and radiotherapy, Watson survived the horrific ordeal but left traumatised.

He stated in an interview with the Mirror in 2007:  “For two years after the illness, I had a really bad traumatic disorder, where I had this horrible feeling each evening when I went to bed that I was going to die”.

From his recovery, Russell had gone on to perform and host tours nationally and globally. He found himself as the newest cast member on I’m a Celeb with many fans excited for his edition.

University of Salford’s own graduate, Zoe King, even has found herself working behind the scenes on the show.

But his time on the show was sadly cut short on Wednesday when he was voted off in a double-elimination

When asked of his feelings of leaving by hosts Ant and Dec, Russell said: “I’m emotional really, it just reminds me of what a good time we had in there. I got hit on the head and ate a few cockroaches- apart from that it was great”. 

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