THIS WEEK, 15 years ago, then 19-year-old Cheryl Tweedy prepared to sing for her future in the final of TV show’s Popstars – the Rivals.

Geordie Cheryl faced off against Javine Hylton, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Sarah Hardy in the ITV1 effort to manufacture rival girl and boy bands.

Javine missed out, and the group, Girls Aloud were formed, going on to secure the coveted Christmas number one spot.

On Christmas Eve, Cheryl tried to do some last minute shopping with her mother in her home city, but was mobbed by fans and had to jump in a car back to to her native Heaton.

A friend said: "Cheryl's one of the biggest names in pop at the moment. Months ago she was a cocktail waitress and now she can't go shopping without getting mobbed – she can't believe it.

"It's still sinking in that she's famous but she has got her feet firmly on the ground and she's delighted to be home with her mum and friends for Christmas."

Also that week, Local Hero Joseph Smith enjoyed an unforgettable day as he led his footballing heroes into action.

Joseph won a Northern Echo Local Heroes award earlier that month for his swimming after single-handedly winning a Cub Scout gala.

The ten-year-old was invited to be Hartlepool United's mascot for an FA Cup tie with Southend at Victoria Park in recognition of his achievements.

Meanwhile then-Darlington FC chairman George Reynolds officially opened the £100,000 hall he built for his village school.

Until their millionaire neighbour brought in his builders, the 83 pupils at Witton-le-Wear primary faced a half-mile trek at the start of every PE lesson and had to eat lunch in their classrooms.

Mr Reynolds said he had been pleased to help. He said: "Our kids today are tomorrow's future.