Sir Alan Sugar is likely to favour young candidates on The Apprentice, according to his aide Margaret Mountford.

Michael Sophocles, the most recently fired contestant on the BBC reality show, was in the boardroom for four weeks running only for the Amstrad boss to give him a second chance, citing his youthful enthusiasm.

And retired lawyer Margaret, who takes an advisory role in the tasks as well as giving feedback on contestants to Sir Alan, said "the youth thing" does play a part in the former Tottenham Hotspur chairman's decisions.

"He does make allowances for people without the common sense, gravitas or moderation that some learn with years," she revealed in an interview with the Radio Times.

She also explained that despite his claims in the show introductory credits that contestants' backgrounds are irrelevant, Sir Alan has a tendency to favour hopeful entrepreneurs who have had a testing upbringing.

"He has a soft spot for those who've had a hard start," she explained.

"But if someone who was brought up on one crust of bread a week, living in a cardboard box, makes a complete mess of things in task one, they are still going to go."

The Apprentice moves back to Wednesday night's schedule after being shifted to Tuesday last week to accommodate the England football team's clash with the USA.

And according to fellow aide Nick Hewer, risk analyst Lucinda Ledgerwood could have a chance of winning the fourth series of the show.

"Lucinda, who I thought was a Daffy Duck from a different planet, has suddenly become quite shrewd and political," he said.

However, his initial admiration for Jenny Celerier, who was fired after being found to have attempted bribery during a task, faded as "she [became] a dishonest, lying, cheating rotter".

The Apprentice is on BBC1 tonight at 21:00 BST.

04/06/2008 00:04:00