X Factor bosses have denied tabloid reports that judge Cheryl Cole was secretly friends with a wannabe she put through to the Boot Camp stage of the competition.

Cheryl described 21-year-old Austin Drage’s rendition of the Boyz II Men hit End Of The Road as “so soulful” adding: “If that’s not your best, I’m excited to see what is.”

But, according to reports in The Mirror, 10 million watching the ITV1 show had no idea that Austin has known Cheryl since 2004 when his old boy band, 5Boyz, supported Girls Aloud on tour.

The Mirror also claimed that Cheryl had even had a fling with another member of Austin’s band.

A spokesperson for The X Factor said: “Austin was in boy band 5Boyz, which we have always been aware of – and has been widely reported.

“But despite Girls Aloud once appearing on the same billing at a show one night, Cheryl has never met nor had a friendship with Austin, nor has she ever had a relationship with former 5Boyz member Brett.”

Judges Simon Cowell and Dannii Minogue also supported Austin at the audition, while Louis Walsh was not present at the audition in London.

The spokesperson added: “Austin has entered the competition and had to face and receive three Yes’s from the judges just like any other contestant. He has at no point had an advantage over other contestants in the show.”