Is This the Right Direction, Simon? It's Friday! His Latest Set His Latest Set of Cherubic of Cherubic X Factor X Factor Wannabes Should Watch out -- Watch out -- Simon Cowell Simon Cowell Doesn't ALWAYS Doesn't alWays Have the Midas Touch Midas Touch

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Byline: by Alison Boshoff

THOUGH it's not obvious because his demeanour is never all that animated -- probably due to a combination of self-control and Botox injections -- Simon Cowell is 'genuinely' very excited about One Direction, his last remaining act in The X Factor.

The band, formed from five young boys at Bootcamp, could have been a disaster. But this selection of off-cuts, a crop of early-blooming Justin Biebers, are provoking such screams from the audience that the judges can scarcely be heard bellowing their platitudes over the screeching racket. Cowell is delighted, saying he is sure that his group is going to win. Last week One Direction continued their march with a storming rendition of All You Need Is Love. Again.

They are, of course, cuter than a litter of freshly blow-dried kittens. Crucially, they have grasped the need to play the publicity game and have already been 'in trouble' for embarking on romances with other X Factor singers.

Harry Styles has even been caught kissing a fan after a show -- just the sort of publicity to drive the One Direction enthusiasts into even more of a lather.

'They get on well and they have steel in their eyes and that's what I look for in my artists,' says Cowell. 'I think they'll go far.' But what does the future really hold for Niall Horan, a 17-year-old Colaiste Mhuire student from Mullingar, and his bandmates Harry Styles, Zain Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson? Win or lose, the indications are that they will be offered a management contract by Simon Cowell, and a recording deal with Syco, his record company. They will hope to at least emulate JLS, who have gone on from the X Factor to build huge success.

But One Direction might take a moment to consider the chequered history of the bands Cowell has launched, each time with terrific fanfare and a vast marketing budget. Not all of them have managed, like Westlife, whom he created with Louis Walsh, to build lasting musical careers.

Take one Michelle Barber, a one-time bright young thing in a band called Girl Thing which also included one Jodi Albert, now Mrs Kian Egan.

Girl Thing was backed by Simon Cowell all the way with a lucrative recording contract and a massive promotional budget. But Michelle told me this week: 'When it all went wrong, Simon just vanished in a puff of smoke. I wish One Direction all the best, but they ought to know that when you cease to be successful, all the people who have been protecting you simply melt away.'

EVEN Il Divo, the supergroup of hunky opera singers he brought together back in 2003, have gone ominously quiet. The quartet were handpicked by Cowell, just like One Direction, but found that as virtual strangers from diverse backgrounds being forced to spend so much time together was a serious strain.

They have not released an album since November 2008 and finished their last tour in 2009. They have a professional schedule which might politely be described as intermittent. They have performed together only three times since April -- in Abu Dhabi, Lebanon and vietnam.

Sony maintains that they remain one of their company's most successful acts, and they will be releasing a new album next year -- I'm told Cowell was listening to the tracks only a week ago.

Yet it's hard to escape the impression they are running out of steam after five hit albums.

And how about the fate of 5ive, Simon's first try at a boyband? They had some success and even managed to have a hit in America, and then fell apart, riven by arguments, much to his despair.

But it is the curious case of Girl Thing, which sadly provide proof that Cowell's 'Midas Touch' is sometimes a fiction. …