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Brendan Cole defends Karen Clifton over Will Young's Strictly departure speculation: 'They got along fantastically'

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Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole has defended fellow dancer Karen Clifton after her celebrity partner, Will Young, announced he was leaving the BBC competition for "personal reasons".

Brendan, who has been partnered up with American singer Anastacia, has spoken out in support of Karen after rumours claimed she was behind the reason the former Pop Idol winner left the show. 

"What really disappoints me is that the media will use Karen as the scapegoat and say he was being pushed too hard by her," the professional dancer wrote in his weekly column for Digital Spy. "That's what I read last week and I was very disappointed to see that because obviously he's going through some stuff in his own personal life and he didn't really want to be in the show - it's a big show and it takes over your whole life."

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Brendan Cole has defended fellow Strictly dancer Karen Clifton over Will Young's departure

"Karen's such a phenomenal teacher and she's extremely easy-going and I think they got along fantastically," he added. "Certainly on set they were hanging out all the time, they were laughing and joking."

Karen, who is married to dancer Kevin Clifton, recently responded to reports that she was behind singer Will's exit from Strictly. The 34-year-old tweeted: "Shame certain press have to sour what was a great time for me and Will that sadly came to an end." Will retweeted her post.

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Will announced his decision to quit the show, becoming the fifth celebrity to do so in the programme's 12-year history

The former pop star announced his decision to quit the show, becoming only the fifth celebrity to do so in the programme's 12-year history.

In his statement, Will said: "To be a part of Strictly has been a long-time ambition of mine. As a performer, a viewer, and a fan of the show, to dance as a contestant was an experience I always hoped for. I have made some great friends, and am in awe of their performances week in, week out. I have found a creative partnership with Karen that has been the most wonderful thing to experience."