Simon Cowell caused outrage amongst One Direction fans earlier this week when he took a pop at former band member Zayn Malik. However the music mogul has seen the error of his ways and has said sorry for the gaffe.

The 56-year-old pop supremo made the gag while receiving the top accolade at the Music Industry Trust Awards in London on Monday. 

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan where on hand to present Cowell with his award when he quipped: "Who misses Zayn?"

The One Direction lads were rendered speechless and clearly uncomfortable when Cowell kicked off his acceptance speech by saying: "Just my luck I get the award I've been wanting all my life and I'm completely hammered."

Things got even more awkward when he added: "Guys, who misses Zayn? We all get old but I've still got charisma."

However Cowell has now insisted he didn't mean to upset anyone with his joke. Speaking on New York's Fresh 102.7, he said: "I just kind of thought when I was standing on stage with them, that they were back to being five, and I saw myself [being a part of] One Direction for a moment.

"That's when I made that quip, 'Who needs Zayn?' which of course backfired hugely. So I apologise to any Zayn fans out there – it was meant as a joke."