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SCOTTA BE JOE! I'm backing my pal, says show's Teesside hero.

Byline: KATH MacCOLL

X FACTOR former contestant Scott James has pledged "to eat his hat in Stockton town centre" if his mate, singing sensation Joe McElderry, isn't crowned winner in tonight's TV show.

"It's got to be Joe. He's local and "It's got to be Joe. He's local and he's a winner," said Scott, who spent last Sunday with Joe's family and friends at the TV studio in London.

And 22-year old Scott revealed his runner-up would the Dagenham diva Stacey Solomon for her "infectious" personality.

But he slated third contestant Olly Murs for "dancing like a puppet on a string".

Millions are expected to tune into this weekend's show which promises to be one of the closest finals yet.

Scott said the pressure was intense but Joe - who he has got to know well - was holding up.

Stockton-born Scott, who has Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism, admitted the pressure might have been too much for him to bear.

"Joe is a fantastic guy, note-perfect throughout and he even stole my song Don't Stop Believing. If he doesn't win, I'll eat my hat in Stockton town centre," said Scott, who got through to boot camp before being knocked out for fluffing his lines before the judges.

"I think Joe is absolutely fantastic. He should win. As soon as Stacey opens her mouth you can't help but smile. And Olly is a good guy but they have got him doing too much dancing. He has become a bit of a puppet if you ask me," he said.

Scott, who revealed he didn't leave home for seven years until music allowed him to escape, hopes to watch the show locally with friends.

He says he feels nervous for all three contestants and met them all during his time on the show.

"I know Joe was back in South Shields with Cheryl Cole to see his family, so that might have helped. Honestly I don't know if I would have coped with the intensity of it," he said.

Scott, meanwhile, has been recording a new song, Through My Eyes - an original song written by an Australian mum whose daughter has autism. He performed the single -due for release in the New Year - as he officially switched on the Daisy Chain Christmas lights at Calf Fallow Farm in Norton.

He has got heavily involved with the local charity which helps kids with autism and Asperger's syndrome after his television fame earlier this year.

Events manager for Daisy Chain, Lisa Marshall, said Scott had become an idol to many of the youngsters. "They really look up to him and ask him for autographs. We are so pleased to have his support and he really connects with a lot of the children."

Hundreds of pounds were raised for the charity at festive lights spectacular. The lights will be on next Friday from 4.30pm to 6.30pm along with Christmas stalls and a visit by Santa. There will be a carol service at 7pm with the Salvation Army Brass Band.

Meanwhile the X Factor organisers have announced that Joe McElderry, 18, will be duetting with George Michael. Olly, 25, is lining up with Robbie Williams and Stacey, 20, with Michael Buble. One act will be voted off at the end of tonight's show, leaving the final two to sing for success on Sunday night.


THE FINAL SHOWDOWN: For favourite Joe McElderry, right, Olly Murs, below, and Stacey Solomon, centre AUTISM CHAMPION: Scott with Thomas and Lucy Mallon at Daisy Chain, left, and how we told of his battle, above
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2009
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