A family double-Bill...

Ray Ashcroft
Ray Ashcroft
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YOU probably recognise Ray Ashcroft even today.

It’s been 11 years since he played the super-smooth DS Geoff Daly in The Bill yet the Sheffield thesp still gets spotted a whole lot.

But now, if his daughter has anything to do with it, the 51-year-old is set to be replaced as the most famous face in the family.

For 22-year-old Annie is to launch her pop career next month as part of a Spice Girls-style girl group. The four-piece, called Duchess, have been put together after a series of nationwide auditions and are to release their first single, All The Boyz, on mega-label Universal.

“I’m so proud of her,” says Ray, of Nether Edge, who also starred in Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Heartbeat. “She’s worked so hard for this and suddenly everything is coming right.”

He’s not kidding.

The Ashcrofts as a young family -  Annie, left, with dad Ray, sister Pia and baby Billy

The Ashcrofts as a young family - Annie, left, with dad Ray, sister Pia and baby Billy

The group have been working on their debut album – pencilled for a September release – in Los Angeles and Paris with big name urban collaborators including Printz Board from the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga’s producer Red One.

Today, before she calls your Diarist, she’s spent 10 hours being styled for video shoots, while the band’s management refuses to give her number out apparently in case, when she gets famous, yours truly decides to hack into her voice mail.

Not bad for a girl who says she was kicked out of High Storrs School before she sat her GCSEs and who has spent the last six years serving burgers at Uncle Sam’s on Ecclesall Road.

“Well, not exactly kicked out but, yeah, kind of,” she says. “It was agreed it was best if I left. I was never very academic. I’d sit in lessons writing songs instead of doing my work, dreaming of being a singer, and I suppose I could be disruptive - but everyone loved me, really. I think.”

And it seems – cliche warning – dreams can come true.

Eighteen months ago she auditioned for Duchess, was immediately signed and has been living in something of a daze ever since. “Getting on a plane to go to LA I almost had to pinch myself,” she says.

She’s particularly pleased because older sister Pia, 26, currently works for Sony has been guiding the band through the tricky world of showbiz.

And now Annie – who lives with Pia in London half the week and dad for the rest – is hoping world domination can be hers.

“We’re not just another Saturdays girl group,” she insists, claws drawn. “We’re more real, we’re more Destiny’s Child if anything.”

Big talk – but no matter how big Duchess become Annie insists she won’t forget her dad. How could she?

“I was so proud of him at school,” she says. “Everyone would ask me ‘Is your dad really DS Geoff Daly?’ Now I want to make him proud of me.”