Len Goodman was lauded by the cast of Strictly Come Dancing during Saturday night’s launch show.

Tess Daly, Claudia Winkleman, Anton Du Beke, Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and others were among the stars who shared their memories of the beloved icon, who lost his battle with bone cancer earlier this year at the age of 78.

Claudia, 51, opened the tributes with the Strictly host telling the audience: ‘He was part of Strictly Come Dancing from the very beginning and he was crucial to the show. He meant so much to all of us and we’d like to share some of our favourite memories of Len with you.’

Tess, 54, went on to say he was a ‘true gentleman’. She added: ‘He was just so good natured, so warm and the Len that you saw on TV, was the Len you saw in real life. There was no separation.’

Shirley Ballas, 63, described Len as a ‘personal friend’ and someone who was ‘loved and respected all over the world’.

Tributes: Len Goodman was lauded by the cast of Strictly Come Dancing during Saturday nights launch show

Tributes: Len Goodman was lauded by the cast of Strictly Come Dancing during Saturday nights launch show

Tributes: Len Goodman was lauded by the cast of Strictly Come Dancing during Saturday nights launch show

Opening up: Strictly hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly led the way telling their fond memories of their former colleague

Opening up: Strictly hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly led the way telling their fond memories of their former colleague

Opening up: Strictly hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly led the way telling their fond memories of their former colleague

Craig, 58, called Len one his ‘best friends’ adding he would have like to have said ‘goodbye’ to the late entertainer.

‘I don’t think I’ll meet anyone as funny. He was a person that really made other people smile. I adored our little arguments, and that’s what sort of bonded us and it gave us a really fantastic friendship.

‘If you’d ask me was Len one of your best friends, I would say, absolutely. I would love to say goodbye to him,’ the judge said.

Anton, 57, recalled Len being kind and a great friend.

He said: ‘He lived a life and he brought all that experience to the show. He’d tell you when you were dancing awfully, but he did it in such a nice way, you didn’t mind.

‘Len is somebody you would want to have as a friend and I was fortunate enough to have Len as a friend for many years.’

He added: ‘There’s a song by Matt Monroe and the song is ‘I’ll only miss him when I think of him’ but I think of him everyday.’

Fans flocked to X – formally known as Twitter to express their sadness and gratitude to the dancing show for mentioning the legendary head judge.

Funny: The moving tribute featured clips of Len's memorable moments on the show, with many of the clips showing the funny mans witty one liners

Funny: The moving tribute featured clips of Len's memorable moments on the show, with many of the clips showing the funny mans witty one liners

Funny: The moving tribute featured clips of Len’s memorable moments on the show, with many of the clips showing the funny mans witty one liners

Heartbreaking: Craig 58, called Len one his 'best friends’ adding that he would have like to have said ‘goodbye’ to the late entertainer

Heartbreaking: Craig 58, called Len one his 'best friends’ adding that he would have like to have said ‘goodbye’ to the late entertainer

Heartbreaking: Craig 58, called Len one his ‘best friends’ adding that he would have like to have said ‘goodbye’ to the late entertainer

Fond memories: 'I don't think I'll meet anyone as funny. He was a person that really made other people smile,' he said

Fond memories: 'I don't think I'll meet anyone as funny. He was a person that really made other people smile,' he said

Fond memories: ‘I don’t think I’ll meet anyone as funny. He was a person that really made other people smile,’ he said

Seven: After 12 years of Strictly, Len walked away in 2016 and was replaced as head judge by friend Shirley Ballas, who is still in that role today

Seven: After 12 years of Strictly, Len walked away in 2016 and was replaced as head judge by friend Shirley Ballas, who is still in that role today

Seven: After 12 years of Strictly, Len walked away in 2016 and was replaced as head judge by friend Shirley Ballas, who is still in that role today

Sad: Fans flocked to X – formally known as Twitter to express their sadness and gratitude to the dancing show for mentioning the legendary head judge.

Sad: Fans flocked to X – formally known as Twitter to express their sadness and gratitude to the dancing show for mentioning the legendary head judge.

Sad: Fans flocked to X – formally known as Twitter to express their sadness and gratitude to the dancing show for mentioning the legendary head judge. 

One wrote: ‘I think they should rename the glitter ball trophy, the Len Goodman trophy.’

A second penned: Oh the Len Goodman tribute has broken me’ followed by some sad face emojis.

A third said: ‘so emotional…what a phenomenal human being Len Goodman was.’

The tribute featured clips of Len’s memorable moments on the show, with many of the clips showing the funny mans witty one liners like: ‘You floated across the floor like butter on a hot crumpet’, ‘That was a mango of a tango’ and ‘I’m gonna go home and pickle me walnuts!’

The much-loved head judge had been in a hospice in Tunbridge Wells in Kent following a short illness with bone cancer.

He died peacefully in April, just six months into his retirement, and would have turned 79 the next day.

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