ONE of the worst kept secrets in X Factor history came to fruition, when Matt Cardle performed a behind closed doors gig.

The 27-year-old painter and decorator from Little Maplestead, near Halstead, sung a number of tracks, including a rendition of the Jackson Five’s Blame It On The Boogie, to dozens of adoring fans at the Five Bells pub, in Colne Engaine, on Friday evening.

ITV bosses tried to keep what was dubbed a “secret gig” under wraps and refused press admission to the event in a bid to keep their footage for next weekend’s show as exclusive as possible.

But, if nothing else, it provided an early indicator that the bookies’ favourite had successfully progressed to the final 12 and live rounds of the talent show, which wasn’t revealed on screen until yesterday evening.

Footage from the gig is expected to be screened next weekend when the live shows get under way.

Owner and landlord of the Five Bells pub, Darren Lingley, who has known Matt for six-and-a-half years, said: “He has worked for us during festivals and things and has also performed here as part of a duo and with his band.

“He’s always promised that if he got anywhere, he would do a gig here, so he spoke to the bosses and managed to set it up, which was great.”

Despite being widely praised by the judges, music mogul Simon Cowell has expressed concerns about Matt’s self-belief, but that was played down by Mr Lingley.

“He’s always had the quality,” he said. “Before, he lacked the confidence but that has changed now.

“It seemed he never truly had the belief but now that he has been told how good he is, it finally seems to be sinking in.”

He was also quick to praise the down-to-earth personality of the X Factor hopeful, adding: “He’s a real, genuine bloke and deserves to get something out of this. There isn’t an ounce of ‘look at me, I’m a pop star’.”

Speaking of his chances of winning the show, Mr Lingley added: “I think there is a lot of pressure on him as favourite and I hope that doesn’t affect him.

“There are a lot of good contestants, if he wins the show we will have to wait and see, but he will certainly do well out of it.”