Cheryl Cole has admitted that she feels at a disadvantage in this year’s The X Factor after malaria caused her to miss part of the judging stage.

The Girls Aloud singer, who is mentoring the girls in this year’s competition, said she has not been able to spend as long with her contestants as she would have liked – and has confessed to them that she is “really nervous”.

“I missed the Boot Camp process,” she said. “I love seeing everyone a second time and remembering people from the first round, or seeing who jumps out that didn’t before or who crumbles under pressure.

“It’s all bits of information that help you decide who you could work with.”

Cheryl added that she caught up on her contestants by watching hours of video footage of their performances while she recovered from her illness – and called upon US megastar Will I Am to help her.

“I did watch the tapes and do my homework on each girl,” she said. “I’ve also been talking to Will as I respect and value his advice and opinions massively.

“I love having the girls. I find it exciting and inspiring. It can be tough being a girl, especially in this industry, so knowing they have my full support and that I have experienced it first hand is so important.

“The quality at this stage is brilliant,” she added, “but it’s never as high as their full potential. One of the most exciting parts of working with them is watching them grow.”

Cheryl also admitted she was hoping for a hat-trick of victories, having mentored the winning act for the past two series of the show.

“All I can do is my very best in steering the girls in the right way and being the best mentor I can be,” she said. “My goal is for them to shine and the public to see a star.”