The X Factor 2011 auditions kicked off in Birmingham on Wednesday this week, with a brand new panel making their debut to more than 3,000 fans at the LG arena. However despite the huge pass speculation over whether or not Cheryl Cole would return to the show, it was more a case of 'Cheryl Cole who?' after the first audition show.
Cole was axed from the US version of the show more than a week ago now and despite claims that the Girls Aloud star was offered £2.8 million to return to the UK version, she was nowhere to be seen in Birmingham last week.
According to News Of The World despite there being worries over how viewers would take to the new judges, they were full of praise for the new line-up as they headed home.
One said: "The panel was much better than I thought it would be - especially Gary. He was so funny and his humour was really dry."
Another added: "Tulisa has taken Cheryl's place really well as she's quite down to earth."
'A mum' told the newspaper: "I really liked Kelly, I didn't know anything about the girls before I came in but I was very impressed. And Gary was of course brilliant, he was looking fab. Really hot! But I'd swap all of them just to have Simon back."
In a video posted on the newspaper's website, another fan said they were glad Cheryl had gone, saying the Geordie singer just agreed with what Simon Cowell said.
One audience member told us however that they felt the new judges were "too harsh" on the hopefuls. "I had a great time at auditions, there was lots of talent but the judges let some of them slip through their fingers - and comments were a little harsh."
We were also at the Birmingham auditions and felt that overall the judges were by far a lot more firm than in previous years, you shouldn't be expecting any Jedwards or Wagners getting through if our experience was anything to go by.
It’s easy to criticise a line up on paper but seeing the judges in action on Wednesday allowed us to experience the spark that perhaps the show’s producers were hoping to achieve. This year’s panel may be a big change and it worked well to make the 8-year-old show feel very fresh and re-energised.
In our view while Cheryl undoubtedly helped to boost the show after three years her repeated simplistic comments became boring and stale, it’s time for some new blood if the show makers are to keep The X Factor being Britain’s biggest show.