X Factor’s Louis Tomlinson in tears as former contestant he helped returns

A returning X Factor contestant reduce judge Louis Tomlinson to tears after he was forced to pull out of last year’s show.

Anthony Russell, a labourer from Liverpool, performed Avicii’s Wake Me Up in an emotional moment, as Louis ran on the stage to embrace him.

The judges explained that, when Anthony was forced to pull out of the show, he then went into rehab for four months, after being contacted by the One Direction star who offered to help.

Head judge Simon Cowell explained how Louis helped him get "the help he needed at the time" and Anthony was reduced to tears himself as he spoke of his gratitude.

Tomlinson told the audience, on seeing Russell on TV last year: "I don’t think I’ve seen someone do a first audition with a black eye, you stole my heart straight away.

"I really got to know you over the past year, and your family, and I think you’re a lovely, lovely guy."

Russell said that auditioning for The X Factor last year made him think he had a shot at success, but that he then "started going down a rocky road, making wrong choices… so I had to step out of the competition myself".

He added: "I was devastated. But then I got a message on Twitter from Louis and started chatting to him. He’d seen my story in the papers and he said, ‘Do you need help? I want to help you’, so I jumped at it.

"I went to rehab for four months, it really helped me, it was a blessing. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Louis.

"As soon as my head started clearing, I thought I want to give this another shot. I’m not on this earth to throw in the towel."

Following his performance, the audience gave Russell a standing ovation.

New judges Robbie and Ayda Williams were also overcome with emotion, with former Take That star Robbie telling him: "In my short stint as an X Factor judge so far, 70% of the acts are alright, they come on stage and they’re a bit vanilla.

"What I’m looking for is the X Factor, and you’ve got the X Factor, and I tell you why.

"Those scars, those battle scars, give you something that not everybody has. Your story is unique. You’re just a great guy."

His wife Ayda agreed, and said that having seen Robbie go through his own "dark" time "I know how much ferocity it takes to get out of a dark place, it takes complete surrender and you completely surrendered in that moment and I think you’re ace".

Tomlinson, who coached Russell ahead of his comeback, struggled to fight back tears.

He said: "Bloody hell lad, I’ve got to pull myself together after that. I’m pretty emotional after that.

"It was a big moment for both of us, and you absolutely delivered."

Head judge Simon Cowell said that Russell’s performance was "sensational" and that he was lucky to have been mentored by Tomlinson.

Russell was given four yeses by the judges and is through to the next stage of the competition, and Tomlinson leapt up to give him a hug.

There was not as much positivity around contestant Marc Higgins’s performance, though.

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Higgins previously took part in The X Factor in a boy band back in 2010, the same year Tomlinson appeared with One Direction.

Tomlinson recognised him, and Higgins, now a firefighter, said he wanted to "show the judges what I can do, this is my dream".

However, his rendition of George Michael’s Careless Whisper left the panel unimpressed, with Cowell saying it was "absolutely the opposite of what I’m looking for".

Tomlinson said: "This is really difficult for me, it did just feel a little karaoke and dated. I was really rooting for you, but it just didn’t do it for me I’m afraid."

Higgins failed to make it through to the next stage.

Acts including calypso singer Olatunji Yearwood from Trinidad and Tobago, former boyband star Brendan Murray from Galway, Ireland, and Jacqueline Faye, a 53-year-old who lives on a farm in Wales, were all voted through by the judges.

The X Factor continues on Saturday at 8.30pm on ITV.

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