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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 14:06 GMT
Westlife tackle Bob for festive chart
Westlife are favourites but trail in record sales
Bob the Builder and Westlife are now on course for one of the fiercest battles to date over the coveted Christmas number one spot, following the closing of bets.

Bookmakers William Hill stopped taking money on the contest on Wednesday with Westlife just nosing ahead with odds of 4/6 and current number one Bob hot on their heels with 11/10.

All other contenders have now been ruled out, including third favourite Eminem and joint fourth place-holders Robbie Williams and Big Brother winner Craig Phillips.

"The fight for the Christmas number one position seems tighter than ever this year," confirmed William Hill spokesperson Serena Momberg.

Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder is the current number one
Bob the Builder's Can We Fix It? is reportedly just ahead of Westlife's double A-sided single What Makes A Man/Motown Medley in sales.

Latest figures are said to show that Bob the Builder has sold 108,000 copies compared with Westlife's 100,000.

However, since Westlife's single was released only on Monday - a week after Bob's - Ms Momberg said Westlife still stood a strong chance of overtaking Bob by the end of the week.

"Other contenders have a big battle when they are struggling with such a formulaic marketing approach as Westlife's," she added.

One factor which might count in their favour is that Westlife have two CDs available and fans may want both

HMV spokesman

Westlife topped the festive charts last year with I Have A Dream. Added to that, 2000 has been hugely successful for the group.

They recently recorded their seventh consecutive single to go straight into the charts at number one.

It was followed by their clean sweep of the Smash Hits music awards earlier this month.

A spokesman for retailer HMV confirmed that the all-boy group had a lot of ammunition to battle their way to the top.

"Westlife have a very active fanbase and are backed by the most fantastic marketing campaign.

Stocking filler?

"One factor which might count in their favour is that they have two CDs available and fans may want both."

But BBC children's TV favourite Bob the Builder, has already proved he is made of stern stuff.

In its second week, his single - sung by programme narrator Neil Morrissey - knocked Eminem's Stan from the top of the charts.

A late Christmas present rush by parents this week could see Bob's song ending up in lots of children's Christmas stockings - and still in the top spot next weekend.

'Close race'

Since making his debut on the BBC in April last year, Bob has secured a huge fanbase of pre-school children.

The programme has been sold to more than 100 countries and created a spin-off merchandising operation worth 60m.

Following the success of Bob's venture into music, BBC Worldwide - the corporation's commercial arm - announced it was creating its own children's record label to capitalise on the potential popularity of future characters.

The HMV spokesman agreed that the popularity of both Bob and Westlife meant the final last stand for number one between the two was going to be very tense.

"It's going to be one of the closest races for the Christmas number one ever.

"The challenge to Westlife's run of consecutive number ones which was unthinkable just a few weeks ago is now definitely on."

The Christmas singles chart will be finalised on Sunday 24 December and updated the following Sunday.

Conventionally, however, whoever is number one for Christmas can hope to enjoy their glory for more than a week as single sales are inevitably sluggish over the holiday season.

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Westlife triumph in album battle
24 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Westlife break own record
11 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Eminem trounces Bob in chart battle
10 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Westlife top Smash Hits polls
13 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Craig signs five-album deal
17 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Pick of the Christmas singles
17 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Bob the Builder makes number one
14 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Eminem voted Christmas favourite
18 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Westlife tipped for the top at Christmas
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