AN ALLITHWAITE bad boy' is preparing for nationwide fame after making his debut last night (Thursday) on TV's hottest new reality show.

Ross Barrett, 21, features as one of a round-up of reprobates trying to get their lives back on track in ITV1's Bad Lads' Army.

The popular programme, narrated by Dennis Waterman, sees a bunch of 30 young men with a history of misbehaviour undergo four weeks of gruelling National Service-style training in the hope that they will emerge on the right side of the rails.

Divided into two squads, the group of 18-24 year-olds compete against each other in the show as well as battling with their own demons in a bid to learn self-discipline, self-knowledge and self-respect.

Ross, who was expelled from Cartmel Priory School at the age of 15, explained that he decided to take time out from his job behind the bar at the village's Guide Over Sands pub after talking to fellow Allithwaite man Alistair Rae the series's fearsome platoon sergeant.

"Sergeant Rae and my boss were talking in the pub one night, saying they thought it would be good for me to do the show," said Ross, who was chosen from more than 5,000 men from all walks of life.

"I watched the series last year and thought it was brilliant and that maybe it could benefit me. I've been an alcoholic for the past six years and I wanted to prove to my girlfriend's parents that I'm not as bad as they might think."

And so, at the end of May, the young private waved goodbye to modern luxuries and travelled down to Gosport, near Portsmouth, to check into his Spartan new digs and begin a month of tough mental and physical training.

"There were all sorts of lads there - common thieves, drug dealers and some people who had done some proper bad things. One guy had been up for attempted murder," he revealed.

"When I went down I had a ponytail but they soon shaved it off and it became like a mascot for us all.

"Our dorms were very basic, we had rows of single beds and for the first week we just ate kippers and porridge on the same plate it was disgusting."

Despite eight of the men leaving in the first two weeks, Ross lasted the course and has emerged a different man.

"I came close to leaving a couple of times but I wanted to see it out. For me, not having a drink was the most difficult part, but I've gone from having alcohol every day for the past six years, to having four or five drinks since I came home last month.

"Now I appreciate what I have at home and I'm getting on with my parents much better. It has definitely been a life-changing experience and I'm considering joining the army now."

Mr Rae, who spent 24 years in the army before becoming a management consultant, agreed the experience had had a "major, positive effect" on Ross.

"The main thing is he has identified his problems and what he needs to do to curb them. He realises some of his behaviour in the past has been wrong and he wants to change. You've got to take your hat off to him," said the 47-year-old, who also appeared in last year's series.

"All of the lads on the show benefit. Rather than being for entertainment it is about hammering home the importance of values through a traditional approach and I think society in general could benefit from a move back towards National Service.

"I got a great deal of satisfaction from doing the show, to think I have helped just one young man turn the corner means a lot."

You can follow Ross's progress for the next six weeks, each Thursday night from 9pm on ITV1.