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Boozers back Ben Haenow's bid for X Factor glory

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WITH Ben Haenow edging closer to winning the X Factor crown, he returned to Croydon to visit another Crown, the pub in Shirley where he used to work.

Ben was a barman at the pub seven years ago and Saturday's show saw him and brother Alex return for a pint and a heart to heart.

Gemma Bright, assistant manager at the Crown, said: "It was brilliant. He was absolutely lovely, just really normal. He's still grounded, and the women were besotted.

"He was really good to staff and made us all laugh. We were talking to him for most of the day. He said it was really fun and he had a good time working here."

The pub are backing Ben, with some regulars remembering being served by him.

"They remember him shaving his head for charity one night. They said he was just a really good guy, really fun," said Gemma.

And the Crown aren't the only pub backing Ben.

The Haenow brothers have performed at the Swan in West Wickham since the current owners took over four years ago, and the pub have pulled out all the stops to get people voting for him.

Landlady Lisa Powley said they have printed 30 "Vote for Ben" T-shirts (which the staff now wear as a uniform), 50 posters, five banners and four flags. And they have sent posters to other businesses who want to lend support.

Ben even had a taste of the other side of talent shows in the Swan as a judge for West Wickham's Got Talent. "I don't think he liked being a judge, it's quite hard believe it or not but he was a very good at it," said Lisa.

"Whenever he played gigs it was fantastic. Traditionally the Swan is very male dominated and very sporty but whenever we had Ben and Alex in you knew they were due to play because all the girlies would come.

The pub isn't very big but 80 or 90 people would come to watch and he would always take time to go around and talk to them."

Lisa said the pub has been screening the shows and even some Strictly fans are supporting Ben.

"This doesn't happen to people like that around here and it's just great that he is so good and it's happening to him," said Lisa.

Ben's mum, Rosanna, has been rallying support at Sainsbury's on Station Road in West Wickham where she is a customer services assistant. Ben worked on the deli counter at the supermarket ten years ago, and now the staff are wearing "Vote for Ben" badges and putting out "Vote for Ben" announcements on the tannoy.

Rosanna said the store manager, Patrick Feenan, has always been very fond of Ben. She said: "Everyone has really got into it, they've been amazing. People come in and find me and say we watched him, ask how he's doing and for his autograph. It's absolutely fantastic. I can't tell you how overwhelmed we are with everyone's response. And I just think, it's my Ben. I still don't think it's sunk in."

And Alex said he has to factor an extra half hour in every time he leaves the house as so many people stop him to talk about Ben. He said local businesses from gyms to estate agents and plumbing merchants have put up posters and stickers.

"We're just ecstatic about it. Even people who don't know Ben but just know he's from Croydon have decided to put up flags. It's brilliant the local community are really getting behind him.

Alex said the day spent filming in the pub and driving in his van is the most time he's spent with Ben since he went into the X Factor house.

"It was really nice to have an hour or two to ourselves to just talk because I've really missed him to be honest," he said.

Boozers back Ben Haenow's bid for X Factor glory


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