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Trial: Accused soccer coach held power over aspiring players

Trial: Accused soccer coach held power over aspiring players

A court has been hearing testimony from the victims who allege they were abused by former football coach, Barry Bennell.

Bennell, described by the prosecution as a "devious paedophile", has admitted seven charges of sexually abusing three boys but pleaded not guilty to a further 48 counts relating to 11 alleged victims from 1979 to 1991.

The testimony, provided via video, said that Benell, a scout for Manchester City at the time, was "touchy" with the alleged victim when he first met the coach at the age of about 11.

They said Bennell had a hold on them, such was their desire to make it as footballers.

Mr Unsworth told the court that none of the boys spoke to each other about the alleged abuse, adding: "We knew where we wanted to go and we just thought this was what we had to go through".

Unsworth, who previously waived his anonymity in 2016, alleged the abuse happened virtually every time he was picked up and escalated into more sexual assaults - "over 100 times" on overnight stops, often with other boys in the same bed, and more serious offences, including rape.

A transcript of a police interview with Mr Bennell in February a year ago was read to the court, which included a denial that he had abused Mr Unsworth.

He said Mr Bennell's interest in him eventually "fizzled out", adding: "As soon as you started turning up with pubic hair you were past your sell-by date and you were gone".

He said: "I always said to myself one day I will do this but I didn't want to upset my parents".

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Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court that the ex-Crewe Alexandra coach, who has since changed his name to Richard Jones, worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire in the late 1970s and into the 1990s. "The first time, I'll never forget it", he said. "One, they wouldn't believe you and, two, I'm going to jeopardise where I want to get to in professional football".

After a short recess the jury was shown a television interview in which former footballer Andy Woodward broke his silence about being abused.

The man told the court he then made contact with Woodward.

The court was read a transcript of a police interview with Bennell in which he denied the allegations.

His home, where he would invite boys to stay over, was described by one complainant as a "paradise" for young boys with a pool table, fruit machine, big TVs and unusual pets, which the court heard included a wild cat and a monkey.

"I would look out for lads that were possible victims", Bennell told the police.

He also described a "grooming process" where he would play fight with the boys and give them "treats".

The trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, continues.


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