THE region's X Factor pop duo have returned to the North-East for Christmas.

And excitement is in the air with an engagement and talks of a possible lucrative recording contract.

Brothers Carl and Andy Pemberton, of Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, who form Journey South, were greeted by fans outside Stockton's TFM radio studios early yesterday.

Facing the local media after finishing third in the reality-based show on Saturday, the brothers expressed their gratitude to the thousands of fans in the region who voted for them each week.

Although Journey South failed to take the X Factor title, the brothers came third place out of 75,000 hopefuls entering the national talent competition.

On Monday, the duo's mentor, Simon Cowell, hinted to television viewers of a record deal.

Andy, 29, said: "We can't really say the particulars of it, but things are looking really good. We have been in talks with Simon and all we can say is, watch this space.

"It is an amazing feeling. Simon is the main man - if we want to be signed by anyone, we want to be signed by him. We are in such a privileged position to be friends with him."

And despite denials to the press from their manager, Carl, 25, confirmed his marriage proposal to girlfriend Vic Duffy, from Nunthorpe.

He said: "It is true. We went back to the hotel and it just seemed like a good opportunity - it was really nice and romantic."

The brothers decided to skip the showbiz parties this week to return home for the festive season.

Carl said: "We are feeling like it is good to be back with the family. We didn't win, but we are not going to give up. We are feeling fairly positive. It is the start of something new."

Andy said: "It was unbelievably close between all three. We are just pleased that the final went really well.

"February 17 at Newcastle Arena is the first date of the tour - we are starting the tour in the best place - the North- East. Get yourselves there, it is going to be a fantastic show."