As he strolled along a smart, leafy West London street dressed in a white T-shirt, blue shorts and a matching pair of Converse plimsolls, Phillip Schofield blended easily into the background.
Leaving the Roebuck pub following a three-hour lunch with a friend last Sunday, he enjoyed the September sunshine alone.
But unlike previous visits, when he was an almost constant fixture on daytime TV, there were no requests for autographs or selfies. Instead, he could have been any pubgoer, enjoying a laidback weekend.
It was, say friends of Phil, a moment of reflection. For it was the eve of the new term for his former ITV show This Morning following the summer holidays.
Surely it could not have been much more brutal for Phil. The next morning viewers watched as his former co-host Holly Willoughby was joined by her new best friend Alison Hammond – the woman she told ITV she now wanted at her side.
Phillip Schofield appears downcast as he leaves a London pub the day before Holly Willoughby returned to ‘This Morning’ presenting duties
Holly Willoughby, Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary at the 28th National Television Awards
Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby at the 27th National Television Awards at OVO Arena Wembley last year
Despite some viewers lambasting the women for their cringeworthy dancing to music from Mamma Mia!, Holly barely stopped smiling, giving every indication of being delighted to be back.
For 21 years, Phil had also returned to the This Morning studio in early September following the summer break.
Only this time, not only was he not there, he couldn’t even bring himself to turn on the show, a close associate tells me.
‘Watching that was the last thing he would have done,’ they said.
Though he may have perhaps been buoyed by a drop in viewing figures – 200,000 had failed to tune in, leaving This Morning bosses deeply worried.
Phil may have also taken a little solace from the fact that on Tuesday night, Holly was forced to put on a brave face at the National Television Awards (NTAs). It was the first time in 14 years that the duo hadn’t been there together.
While Holly was still able to hobnob with some of the biggest names in television, it could not have been a comfortable night for her following the ratings fall.
Nevertheless, the star, wearing a stunning lilac Suzanne Neville gown, was still on the front page of most newspapers the morning after – something Phil had become used to himself in his years at This Morning.
The sight of Phil leaving the pub alone was perhaps the starkest illustration of just what he has lost since admitting to the Mail that he’d had an affair with a much younger male runner, with whom he worked on This Morning, behind his wife’s back – and then lying about it.
The trip to the pub was, say those close to him, typical of how he lives his life now. Gone are the 6am starts, the thrill of live television and being one half of Britain’s daytime golden couple.
‘Phil’s life has changed in a way that previously would have been inconceivable for him to have imagined,’ said one friend.
‘Look at this time last year, when he was also returning to This Morning after a holiday in the next-door villa to Holly and her family. Now he has nothing apart from a lot of time on his hands. It is almost like he has taken early retirement but obviously not through choice.’
So how exactly is he using his time – apart from walks, and drinks with friends? ‘Licking his wounds,’ says one.
And, they reveal, therapy. Phil has turned to regular counselling to try to come to terms with losing his job, many friendships and status as one of the UK’s top presenters. ‘He is spending a lot of time talking to a therapist, at least once a week,’ said the friend.
Holly Willoughby and Alison Hammond at the 28th National Television Awards at the O2 on September 5
Holly Willoughby (left), with co-presenter Alison Hammond, films an outdoor segment for This Morning at the BBC Studioworks facility in White City
Pictured are Holly Willoughby, Alison Hammond and Zoe Williams taking a selfie at the NTAs on September 5
Craig Doyle and Holly Willoughby pictured on ITV’s This Morning on September 7 after Philip Schofield left
‘That’s what he is mainly doing right now, reflecting on what he did wrong and trying to come to terms with his new life. It has all been an incredible shock for him and he is struggling to get his head around it.
‘He feels like he needs to have someone professional to talk it all through with. The situation has put a lot of stress on his family and he decided that he needed another outlet.’
Sources say that Phil is once again on speaking terms with his estranged wife Stephanie, the mother of his two daughters, Molly and Ruby. She was distraught when, in May, he told her about the affair with the man in his 20s and didn’t return to the family home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, for some weeks.
But he now visits the property regularly, doing odd jobs and spending time with Stephanie, whom he married in March 1993.
Phil’s daughters are also regular companions, as well as Molly’s long-term boyfriend Will Grieveson. ‘It’s when he is with them that Phil appreciates what actually matters in his life and he is able to smile,’ the friend said.
There have also been some long drives down to Cornwall where Phil’s 87-year-old mother Pat lives. Phil is her sole carer after his younger brother Timothy was jailed for child sex offences earlier this year.
It has been a torrid time for the pensioner with both of her sons finding themselves in the news for all the wrong reasons. ‘She has been under so much stress lately. It is a lot for anyone, let alone someone of her age,’ said a source.
While the 540-mile round trip would be something of a nightmare for some, for Phil it gives him ‘thinking time’.
With £12 million in the bank and three properties to his name, money isn’t one of Phil’s worries, especially as he has kept his hold of his property management company Fistral.
He has also signed up with a wealth management company called Sedulo which enables high-net worth individuals to grow their fortune.
‘Phil was a very high earner for a very long time so unlike many celebrities who hit rock bottom, he doesn’t have to worry about money,’ a source said.
On a more personal level, it is fair to say that Phil has lost many of his long-standing friendships.
Holly is now gone from his life and Phil has made no secret of how he feels about her now – choosing, very publicly, to unfollow her on Instagram earlier this week. Also gone from Phil’s life is Martin Frizell, the editor of This Morning, as well as colleagues of 35 years at talent agency, YMU, which parted company with the former star in the wake of the scandal.
However, some high-profile supporters remain. Piers Morgan, the former Good Morning Britain host, who now fronts his own programme on TalkTV, has been staunchly loyal.
Another member of the network’s stable, Vanessa Feltz, was seen dining with Phil last month at his favourite Chiswick cocktail bar, Little Bird.
The pair, who became friends during Vanessa’s time as a newspaper reviewer on This Morning, chatted into the night.
The sight of Phil leaving the pub alone was perhaps the starkest illustration of just what he has lost since admitting to the Mail that he’d had an affair with a much younger male runner
Surely it could not have been much more brutal for Phil. The next morning viewers watched as his former co-host Holly Willoughby was joined by her new best friend Alison Hammond
Leaving the Roebuck pub following a three-hour lunch with a friend last Sunday, Phil enjoyed the September sunshine alone
While sources say they would not be surprised if Piers or Vanessa had tried to encourage him back to television, any reports of Phil wanting, or trying, to do so have been written off as ‘absolute baloney’.
Despite claims he had an unbearable ego during his days as the star of ITV, he knows he cannot return to the screen any time soon. As for charity work, I’m told Phil won’t put himself forward for any after he was ditched by charities including the Prince’s Trust and the Royal Voluntary Service.
He was also dumped from his ambassador roles with the likes of Boots and the Craft Gin Club.
As for reports that he is planning to write a book, they too have been written off as ‘total nonsense’. ‘Why would he want to rake it all up again?’ asked one pal, adding: ‘What’s absolutely not on the agenda is for Phil to return to television. He knows he isn’t welcome and he is trying to build a life away from the limelight.
‘His friends keep telling him that there are other ways he can feel a sense of achievement but he just isn’t there yet. Right now he is trying to care for the people that he hurt because he takes the view that what better therapy can there be apart from that?’
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