Protective Cheryl wanted to shield Simon Cowell after he started crying following the death of his mum

Cheryl and Simon Cowell might have their disagreements every now and then on The X Factor but ultimately they’ve clearly got an unbreakable bond.

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The strength of their friendship came through recently when Cheryl had to deal with seeing Simon, 55, break down in tears during a highly emotional performance on the show just days after the death of his mum.

Cheryl, 32, has confessed that she didn’t know what to do following Josh Daniel’s moving rendition of Jealous by Labrinth and admits it was hard to see music mogul Simon look so vulnerable.

‘To see tears coming from his eyes… it was a shock to me,’ the singer explains.

‘I’ve never seen Simon emotional like that. I guess I went into a panic.’

Cheryl admits that she felt protective of her friend in such emotional circumstances and wanted to shield him from the world’s scrutiny.

‘I wanted to protect him from anyone else noticing, at the same time as remaining poised and doing my job,’ she says.

‘It got me right in the heart, that one, because Josh was giving a beautiful performance and I’ve never seen Simon cry. It was a tough day.’

Following Josh’s emotive audition Simon was seen leaving on his own in a golf buggy as Cheryl told the cameras to ‘leave him’, showing that she really knows him well.

The former Girls Aloud star thinks that the sad loss of Simon’s beloved mum Julie – who passed away aged 89 in July just days before auditions began – has brought them even closer.

‘In the circumstances that have happened this year, I’ve seen a different side to Simon,’ Cheryl tells The Sun.

‘It’s an awful situation to bond over, but it happens. You’re sat together for 12 to 14 hours a day and this person is going through incredible pain. Pain I can’t even understand myself.

‘We’ve had our moments and still bicker backstage at times but it’s very much a brother/sister thing, where you literally love and hate each other all at the same time.’

These days Cheryl and Simon are working even more closely together as Chezza recently became an executive producer on X Factor and she thinks they are a great team.

‘We drive each other mad sometimes but ultimately we are good at working together,’ she says.

‘We have a good dynamic. I think of Simon as someone I look up to and I have a lot of respect for him – he has been in this industry longer than I’ve been alive.’

See how the X Factor judging panel has changed over the years…

Anna Francis