Rachel Riley

She's smarter than Stephen Hawking's spellchecker, dresses like a fashionista and loves footy. Just as well she's a Manchester United fan, or Rachel Riley really would just be taking the mickey…

Rachel Riley profile

Proving definitively that jokes about Essex girls should be consigned to history's wastepaper basket, Southend's Rachel Riley had already gained a seriously impressive Maths degree from Oxford before she came to the nation's attention.

Replacing Carol Vorderman as Countdown's queen of numbers in 2009 and bagging – in her own words – the "only cool maths job around", it was a step up from her previous role, working in the City for a price comparison website. Like some sort of classier anthropomorphised meerkat.

They may have been tough shoes to fill, but Rachel soon made Countdown's loyal army of the elderly, workshy and lecture-dodging forget all about Carol. She eventually spread her wings, bagging a hosting slot on The Gadget Show and becoming a regular feature of panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats where, despite its title, her obvious way with numbers was of absolutely no use whatsoever.

It did allow Rachel to show off her funny side, however, and the beautiful union of Countdown's finest with Jimmy Carr and co led to one of the oddest spin-offs in recent TV history – 8 Out of 10 Cats does Countdown. What was even odder was that it worked.

Luckily, and presumably for the sole purpose of preventing a national crisis in which everyone fell hopelessly in love with her, Rachel showed she had some flaws. First off, she admitted to being a fan of Manchester United, hosting occasionally on MUTV and cosying up to Ryan Giggs for her 1,000th episode of Countdown.

She also signed up to show off her moves on Strictly. Remember when Alan Partridge told Susan that, to look at her, you'd assume she sang like an angel but that in fact she sang like a trapped boy? Well, it was a bit like that, but with dancing. Probably best to stick to the numbers, eh Rach?

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