It's been an exciting time for fans of Strictly Come Dancing as the first three celebrity contestants were officially announced on Wednesday evening on The One Show. They are England footballer David James, comedian Chris Ramsey and EastEnders actress Emma Barton. The first photo of this year's cast of 18 dancers was also revealed the same day.
Both announcements followed on from the news last week that former South African and German champion Motsi Mabuse will be stepping into Darcey Bussell's dance shoes as the show's new judge. But for many fans of the show, one big question remains: Is this the year that dancer Neil Jones will finally get a celebrity partner?
The 37-year-old pro has been part of the BBC show since 2016 and while he's taken part in the live tour and danced in many of the group performances on screen, he's never been part of the competition. This year, though, that might be about to change. Neil has long expressed his desire for a celebrity partner, telling HELLO! earlier this year that his dream partner would be: "Anybody! Give me anyone. I'm ready for them. I don't care if they can dance, can't dance, age, height. I'll work with them. I'll make sure they look good."
Neil's partner in life is his wife, fellow Strictly dancer Katya
Earlier this year, former dancer James Jordan came out in support of Neil, saying that he should be picked to replace Pasha Kovalev, who won't be returning this year. Neil was partnered with Caroline Flack for the Christmas special, a sign that he might be getting closer to a bigger role on the main show. "Hopefully, there will be one that suits a ginger guy of my height. That would be great!" Neil said in June.
And on Friday, he posted the biggest hint yet that he would be promoted, sharing a snap of himself wearing a Matador jacket to his Instagram, which he captioned: "I wanted to make an announcement today but I need to delay it a little bit longer so please just enjoy this cool image for the time being and stay tuned because some exciting news is coming."
Neil posted the mysterious image to his Instagram account on Friday
His followers quickly came to the conclusion that he could only be talking about a Strictly promotion, responding: "You are going to have a Strictly partner?!" "A partner on Strictly, I hope!" and "So hoping it's that you are getting a long overdue celeb partner this year."
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