Cheryl Cole has criticised the ‘mean campaign’ threatening to keep her protege, Joe McElderry, out of the Christmas No 1 spot.

The Girls Aloud star, who worked with her fellow Geordie on The X Factor, said she hoped his song, The Climb, he beats Rage Against The Machine (RATM) in the race for the top of the charts.

She said: “I would be devastated to see Joe lose possibly the best thing that could happen to him in his life. Every aspiring pop star dreams of a No 1 record.

“It is a beautiful song. He put his heart and soul into every single week of The X Factor and I cannot bear to see him lose out to a mean campaign that has nothing to do with his efforts. If that song, or should I say campaign, by an American group is our Christmas number one I’ll be gutted for him and our charts.”

Latest figures show RATM retaining their lead with Killing In The Name in the biggest seasonal chart battle for a decade.

Despite predictions that talent show winner McElderry would storm ahead when his CD went on sale on Wendesday, the iconic rap-metal band are still in front. But the 18-year-old has narrowed the gap, with the difference between them now around 40,000 copies.

Retailers and record company Sony will be rubbing their hands at the chart battle as the two tracks between them have now sold around 470,000 copies this week, according to Official Charts Company data. Final chart positions will be announced on Sunday.