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The real reason Westlife split? One Direction, admits Nicky

WESTLIFE decided that they hadn't enough fight in them to compete with One Direction before splitting up.

Former member Nicky Byrne has revealed that when he and his bandmates saw Niall Horan's group coming over the horizon in 2012, they decided the time was right to bow out after a career in which they sold 50 million albums.

"There's a time when every band looks in the mirror and realises it's time to pack it in. That time for Westlife came when we saw One Direction come on the scene," Nicky Byrne told the Herald.

However the Malahide man said that up until then Westlife had been unbeatable.

"Like a boxer, we had 10 big fights in our career against other pop bands. Whether it was Steps, JLS, Blue or B*witched and we saw them all off.

"In fact, at the end Westlife were black and blue from our scraps with other bands. But like a boxer, you eventually end up in a fight you can't win. And if we had taken on One Direction, we would have ended up in the grave," he said.

The Dubliner cites One Direction's use of social media like Twitter and Facebook for helping them fill stadiums around the world, and sell out two nights at Croke Park, only a few shorts years after they formed on the X Factor.

"We didn't have Twitter when we formed back in 1998, but we had loyal fans who didn't like any other bands. One Direction have them too, just millions more than we had. They have taken it to the next level," said the singer turned presenter.

But Nicky said he had little advice for his young rivals other than to "stay grounded" and not have a frontman.

"Shane and Mark sang the lead vocals but people regarded Westlife as a group, not a person. That was good for the internal politics of the band. The only advice I would give to One Direction is to not let anyone from the outside get in and break up the unity of the band.

"That's what kept Westlife together for so long," he said.