Barry Bennell ‘Was God’, Says Alleged Sexual Abuse Victim
Man tells court Bennell gave Manchester City youth players football kit to win them over
A Guardian Article by Daniel Taylor
Barry Bennell was regarded as “God” at Manchester City during the years when he was sexually abusing boys who had dreams of becoming professional footballers, a jury has heard. On the fifth day of Bennell’s trial at Liverpool crown court, where he is facing 48 charges relating to 11 boys from 1979 to 1991, one of the alleged victims said he could no longer go back to his home town because there were too many bad memories from his time in City’s junior system in the 1980s.
Now in his 40s, the former player is the fourth man to give evidence who was once affiliated to the club. He told the jury that Bennell had convinced him he would become a professional footballer. “We idolised him. He was God. This man was showing me how to do things with a football I’d never seen before.
“Barry took me to Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time, and the Platt Lane training ground. I met some players. I met the chairman at the time. At that age, I was in awe around all these stars. It was brilliant. I was being told that when I was a certain age I’d sign schoolboy forms and had a career ahead of me. “I thought, ‘this is it, I’ve made my dreams, I’m going to be a footballer’, as everyone wants to be at that age. At Maine Road, he was God – from the security lads at the players’ entrance up to (the top of the club). He made you feel special.”
In a police interview shown to the jury, the alleged victim said Bennell drove a car in City’s colours and gave boys designer sportswear – “stuff you saw professional players wearing” – to help win them over. “He might give you a pair of football boots and say: ‘These are for you but later on you have to be good to me.’ “Barry said to me he was going to see me all right, make sure I got a contract at Manchester City, a big house, a nice car. He said he’d been good to me, so I had to be good to him. I thought he meant I had to play well.” Instead, he said there were around 10 occasions when Bennell made him perform a sex act on him, leaving him so traumatised he gave up football a year later and “went off the rails”.
Bennell, who has served prison sentences in England and the United States for abusing children, denies all the charges, but has pleaded guilty to seven counts relating to three other junior players. Earlier, the court was told Bennell had a separate coaching job at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Pwllheli, Wales.. He had been invited to work there because of his role at Manchester City and his ability to involve first-team players. Another of his alleged victims, also from City’s youth set-up, had met a girlfriend at Butlin’s. According to that player’s evidence, Bennell had disliked that so much that he “humiliated” him by excluding him from the team and by playing him as a goalkeeper.
Bennell, who also coached at Crewe Alexandra and Stoke City, said in police interviews he was attracted to the boy and had put him through “my usual procedure” of grooming. “I thought I was quite good at what I did,” he later said, but never followed it up because he had been unable to arouse him and “couldn’t get past the first stage”. That, he said, had been a “complete turn-off” and “a bit of a shock”. (The trial continues).
The Comboni Survivor Group Denounce all forms of Child Abuse, whatever its nature, wherever it takes place and by whomever it is committed. Child Sexual Abuse is a crime. Justice must prevail.