Former Strictly Come Dancing star Kevin Clifton has admitted that "nobody is bigger than the show" following his recent departure.

The professional dancer shocked fans earlier this month when announcing he was leaving after a seven-year spell.

The 37-year-old won the 16th season of Strictly with partner Stacey Dooley, who is now his girlfriend.

He discussed his reasons for leaving and said he wanted new experiences.

Speaking on his podcast, Clifton said: "At age 23 it would be different. I'd look at it and think, 'I can stay on this for the next 10 or 15 years', but at 37 years old I was thinking, 'I'm going to turn 38'.

"If it's going to be similar to what I have already done I don't see myself doing it into my forties.

"I have got so many other interests and I thought, 'I'll have to leave at some point'. I guess I was starting to question when the last series would be. I kept an open dialogue with the producers. It did not come out of the blue.

Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton

"We were very open with each other. They were aware a while back I was at least thinking when was the time. Me leaving gives younger dancers the chance to come through now. Nobody is bigger than the show."

Clifton, known affectionately to fans as"Kevin from Grimsby," has already announced his first post-Strictly role, revealing he will star in Strictly Ballroom The Musical.

He also admitted he felt he never earned the complete trust of Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood during his time on the show.

Clifton said: "After seven years of trying to impress Craig, I always thought that Craig was never 100% convinced of me.

"It was very rare he would get his 10 paddle out, like mine and Stacey's paso doble was three 10s in the final when he could have given a 10."