ANDREW ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s return to cricket has boosted the England dressing room with his banter and words of wisdom.
Freddie Flintoff has returned to the England fold as an unpaid consultant for the ODI series against New ZealandRex
PAThe ex-cricketer’s facial scars are still visible nine months on from the crash[/caption]
ReutersFreddie chats with Jonny Bairstow at The Oval on Tuesday[/caption]
GettyFreddie (pictured with Sam Curran) has been seen working with England’s seamers[/caption]
Freddie’s desire to avoid the spotlight also saw him watch the Ashes “incognito” from a back office over the summer.
But he was pictured for the first time since the crash earlier this week as it emerged he was helping England during their ODI series against New Zealand as an unpaid consultant.
And his presence has buoyed the England players, many of whom grew up watching him and his rise to stardom during the infamous 2005 Ashes win.
England paceman Chris Woakes said: “The vibe in the camp is really good and having Freddie Flintoff around is amazing.
“I’ve met him on a few occasions but it’s the first time I’ve spent a large amount of time with him.
“He was a hero of mine growing up. To pick his brains and chat a bit of rubbish with him in the dressing-room is surreal, really.”
Woakes’ comments have been echoed by fellow seamer Reece Topley, who also praised Freddie’s impact during his short stint with the team.
He told MailOnline: “Freddie has been really good for me this week. He’s a massive character and an idol of mine and the things he’s said to me have really resonated.
“He had serious injuries and his career was cut short and there’s a lot for me to relate to.
“Some of his offerings have been poignant and I’m just grateful to have him around. He’s having a real impact here and that speaks volumes for him as a bloke.”
The Top Gear presenter has appeared in good spirits all week, being seen joking with the team.
But there is still evidence of his horror injuries under his England Cricket bucket hat.
Freddie suffered horror injuries to his jaw and broken ribs in the near-fatal smash in December.
He was airlifted to hospital after the roofless high-speed, three-wheel car he was driving flipped and slid along a track.
Former England teammate Steve Harmison said he was still covering his face six weeks ago following his horror Top Gear crash.
Freddie’s return to the fold has been helped by his close friendship with Rob Key, England’s director of cricket.
He is understood to have attended three Ashes Tests in person as a guest of Key, appearing at the ground in disguise as to not draw attention.
And it was Freddie’s pal who convinced him to work with England’s under-19 setup over the summer.
His involvement with the team is due to end after the final ODI against New Zealand on Friday, though England’s players appear keen for him to continue in the role.
Former teammate Steve Harmison told talkSPORT: “It was great to see him back.
“It’s been tough, you’ve seen the pictures of him with a smile on his face but I saw him about six weeks ago when my son Charlie and his son, Rocky played against each other and it was great to see him.
“I got to see him then but at that time he covered his face up when he walked around.
“He was on great form, but to see him around the England group, the main team, was fantastic.”
ReutersFreddie has been helping the returning Jofra Archer during his stint with the team[/caption]
PAChris Woakes and Reece Topley have praised his influence on the players[/caption]
Flintoff pictured ahead of Wednesday’s ODI against New ZealandRex