Bouncebackability! Can Cheryl Cole survive her 'X Factor' humiliation?

A word coined by ex-football boss Iain Dowie, this most abstract noun focuses on the disappointed's aptitude to shrug-off failure, dust him or herself down and start all over again. But what makes a true comeback kid? Mike Higgins and Hugh Montgomery investigate

Oh babe, it wasn't your week, was it Cheryl, pet? Not only do you get slung off the US version of The X Factor, but Simon Cowell, the man who said you were the only girl for the job, reportedly couldn't be bothered to tell you that, well, ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger was actually the girl for the job. (Beware, Cheryl: the higher the trousers, the higher the treason!)

But take heart! You've overcome disaster before, you little Geordie terrier – a conviction for assault in 2003 and the yet to be illegalised act of marrying gun-toting footballer Ashley Cole. But with fortitude, a good lawyer and 120 hours' unpaid community service, you endured, you triumphed, you tottered back into our hearts as the doe-eyed mentor of warbling chart wannabes the land over.

If the tabloids are to be believed, you're hurtin' bad – so bad, you might pull out of the British X Factor. Hmm, well, it's a bold move, Cheryl. Before you make any hasty decisions, though, you should steel yourself and seek inspiration. So peruse, if you will, our gallery of characters who epitomise the ability to bounce back from repeated setbacks – a Tiggerish quality that has got you where you are today, and may well get you further still.

The comeback kids

They've been arrested, excommunicated, sent off, sacked – but that was never going to be enough to stop them!

Hugh Grant

His early career was spent making films he's since called "Europuddings". On the verge of giving up acting, he read the script for Four Weddings and a Funeral, which would go on to be one of the highest-grossing British films of all time. Then, a few weeks before the opening of his first major-studio film, he was caught in a car with a prostitute. There have been high-profile relationships (Liz Hurley, Jemima Khan) and run-ins with both press and paparazzi. But perhaps Grant's real talent is only now starting to reveal itself: his recent "Bugger, bugged" article in the New Statesman is being hailed in some quarters as the scoop of the year.

To hell and back! 1 stars

Grace under pressure 2 stars

Back to their best? 1 stars

David Beckham

The name David Beckham might conjure images of sculpted stubble, stunning goals, and sexy underwear ads (don't pretend you haven't looked), but back in 1998, the boy wonder who was meant to propel England to World Cup success was hanging as an effigy outside an east London pub, following his red card against Argentina. Still, he bounced back to spark Manchester United's treble-winning season, then secured a £25m transfer to Real Madrid – and rallied again after moving to the LA Galaxy and being dismissed as a spent force by playing on loan for AC Milan and making his way back into the England line-up to reach a record 115 caps for his country.

To hell and back! 1 stars

Grace under pressure 2 stars

Back to their best? 3 stars

Dame Kelly Holmes

Dame Kelly is best known for her look of wide-eyed astonishment at completing her 800m and 1,500m double triumph at the 2004 Athens Olympics – but she went through hell to get there. She just missed out on a medal at her first Games in 1996, finishing fourth after coming back from a stress fracture, then a ruptured Achilles spoilt her world title dreams in 1997. A virus limited her to bronze in Sydney in 2000, before a calf injury disrupted her world championship plans in 2003. It all got so bad that, in despair, she turned to self-harm prior to Athens, using scissors to administer a cut for every day she had been injured. And then, written off, she re-emerged at the age of 34 to win twice in Greece, both times bursting through triumphantly from the back of the pack.

To hell and back! 3 stars

Grace under pressure 3 stars

Back to their best? 3 stars

Fergie

She may have been cruelly excluded from Kate and Wills's nuptials, but the snub should really be water off a duchess's back for the irrepressible Fergie. Forever, fabulously foolish, she has blundered from toe-sucking scandal to cash-for-access sting without ever tiring of embarrassing her former in-laws or fuelling tabloid headlines. And through the failure of her myriad business ventures, not to mention the woe of her self-diagnosed "over-spending disease", she always manages to finds a media spotlight at the end of the tunnel: in two weeks, US viewers can look forward to new reality show, Finding Sarah, which will document "her personal struggle to rebuild her life". Until the next time.

To hell and back! 4 stars

Grace under pressure 1 stars

Back to their best? 3 stars

Winston Churchill

Blimey, where to start? Winston had to work his way back into governmnent after copping the blame for the calamitous Dardanelles expedition of 1915. He spent the 1920s in Cabinet, but was persona non grata the following decade thanks to his opposition to Indian self-rule, his support for Edward VIII in his abdication travails, and his warnings about the threat of one Adolf Hitler. But England's darkest hour was – all together now! – his finest moment. Six years after his election defeat in 1945, the elderly hero returned for a lap of honour as Prime Minister. The great boomerang of British political history.

To hell and back! 3 stars

Grace under pressure 3 stars

Back to their best? 2 stars

Robert the Bruce

The greatest Scottish monarch was also its greatest escape artist – he somehow managed to hang on to his lands (and life) after supporting an uprising against English rule. In 1306, Bruce didn't let the piffling matters of his excommunication or outlawing prevent him from ascending the Scottish throne; nor was our man fazed by his enforced exile at the hands of the English. Re-enter Robert and his rag-tag army in 1314, who set aboot and defeated the armed might of the Sassenach at Bannockburn. Robert then stuck it further to Edward II with the Declaration of Arbroath and the Franco-Scottish Treaty of Corbeil. No' bad, that.

To hell and back? 3 stars

Grace under pressure 1 stars

Back to their best? 3 stars

Peter Mandelson

The Wikipedia chapter headlines for the life of politics' ultimate Weeble say it all: shadow cabinet; government minister; first resignation; second resignation; European commissioner; return to cabinet; post-cabinet. Mandelson wobbles, but he won't fall down. Interest-free loans from dodgy businessmen ... passport applications for dodgy businessmen... and then a role as Britain's European Commissioner, taking the portfolio for dodgy business, sorry, trade. Not even a party on a yacht with an iffy Russian businessman could topple this Teflon man. Still, he made Gordon Brown look safe as houses, and in that old political adage, it's better to have your enemies inside the tent...

To hell and back! 1 stars

Grace under pressure 1 stars

Back to their best? 2 stars

Boy George

From cloakroom attendant at the Blitz to everyone's favourite cross-dressing pop star, by the mid-1980s Boy George had the world in the palm of his hand. He also had an addiction to heroin. Since then he's had a friend die of an overdose in his London home, a conviction for possessing cocaine in New York, a high-profile period of community service, and a bizarre episode involving assault and false imprisonment for which he served four months in jail. But nothing has ever hindered his creative output – as a DJ, solo artist, memoirist and writer of the Tony-nominated musical Taboo. Next year comes the 30th-anniversary Culture Club reunion. You really can't keep a good Boy down.

To hell and back! 3 stars

Grace under pressure 2 stars

Back to their best? 2 stars

Piers Morgan

Scientific tests on Morgan's hide have been unable to distinguish it from a rhino's, so impermeable is he. His ill-advised Euro '96 football headline, "Achtung! Surrender", failed to sink his newspaper ship, as did the share-dealing scandal that saw two of his financial reporters on the Mirror fired and convicted of conspiracy to breach the Financial Services Act. However, he lost his editor's job after the paper printed hoax photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. And then he fell off a Segway. Now, though, Morgan is the toast of TV in the UK and America (sorry, Cheryl) and is married to the glamorous writer Celia Walden. Jammy.

To hell and back! 2 stars

Grace under pressure

Back to their best? 3 stars

Ken Livingstone

If politics is a long game, no one knows that better than our Ken. A blunt-spoken maverick amid obfuscating party politicos, over the years he has endured vicious press brickbats, been ostracised by his own party and spent years in the political wilderness, a fact which made his unprecedented solo victory as an independent candidate in the 2000 mayoral elections – and subsequent popular success – all the sweeter. Not about to leave public service quietly, meanwhile, he'll shoot for another term when he takes on Bojo in next year's race – and "for the first time since Michael Foot, we've got a leader of the Labour Party who likes me", he has noted waggishly.

To hell and back! 2 stars

Grace under pressure 3 stars

Back to their best? 4 stars

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