For some reason Cheryl was not at her scintillating best during Boot Camp week for Popstars: The Rivals and was rightly worried when she was called to face Louis Walsh to hear if she had made the final fifteen. She admits to having negative thoughts, perhaps a legacy of the disappointments in the past when she thought she was within touching distance of success. Not for the last time the emotion of the occasion seemed to overwhelm her and she couldn’t stop crying when Louis told her she was still in. She had made the final fifteen girls. Her mother Joan steadfastly refused to get carried away with it all, preferring to try to keep Cheryl’s feet firmly on the ground. When Cheryl rang to tell her the good news, she replied, ‘Oh, good.’
Cheryl was able to let her hair down for the first time at the end of the week when the producers threw a party for the thirty boys and girls who were left. All the booze was free and the hotel bar took a hammering. Cheryl found herself being chatted up by one of the boys, a handsome carpet-fitter from Leicester called Jacob Thompson, whose sparkly smile stood out among the crowd. Jacob began the competition sporting some bizarre facial hair, a goatee that did not suit him at all and which Geri Halliwell told him to shave off in no uncertain terms. His look was certainly improved when he did so.
He was a couple of years older than Cheryl and seemed more mature than a lot of the boys, some of whom were very young and wet behind the ears. Chris Park, the other finalist from Newcastle, remembered Jacob being a good-looking bloke, ‘nice enough but very quiet’. Another contestant said, ‘There was just nothing to him, no substance to him. He was no more than a five-minute conversation.’ Cheryl, however, fancied him. The setting was too public for anything much more than a kiss goodnight but the pair swapped phone numbers, promising to meet up soon.
Cheryl and Chris caught the train home together. The pressure was off and the whole experience could sink in. Chris let off steam by practically chain-smoking the whole journey back. Cheryl was not far behind, smoking like a chimney, trying to release the tension of it all. At one point she turned to Chris and practically screeched, ‘What if we get in!’