The X Factor semi-finalist Christopher Maloney says the intense criticism directed toward him has "put a damper on the whole experience," though vowed to stay strong till the end. The Liverpudlian balladeer has come under fire for his over-the-top style and dated cruise-ship style act, though insists mentor Gary Barlow has helped him through the bad times.

Speaking to the Press Association, "With all that has happened negatively and the negative comments, it has put a damper on the whole experience but I've not let it affect me. I wish I could have enjoyed it a lot more, you know, but I have enjoyed myself and it's been everything and more that I could have wished for." Though receiving negative feedback from the judges almost every week (apart from Barlow), Maloney insists the public still love him, "The judges never picked me, I was picked by Gary as his wild card. The public chose me and have kept me in this competition from the beginning. The support and loyalty have been unbelievable." Anyone want to tell him that he's this year's token 'crap act' that viewers keep in for a laugh?

Anyway, Maloney was - for a short time - the favourite to win the competition after reportedly pulling in double the amount of votes as his rivals. However, the bookmakers predict he will finish third, behind Jahmene Douglas and James Arthur. The current season of The X Factor has been the most farcical yet, with the likes of Maloney and Rylan Clark progressing to the latter rounds at the expense of Ella Henderson and others. A tabloid report today suggests Cheryl Cole is being targeted for a return to the show next year.