‘They have had their youth stolen from them’ - Norfolk coach speaks of shock at discovering former teammates were victims of alleged abuse

Mildenhall manager Dean Greygoose

Mildenhall manager Dean Greygoose - Credit: Archant

One of the region's top football coaches has today spoken of his shock at discovering his former teammates were victims of alleged sexual abuse.

Former goalkeeper Dean Greygoose played for Crewe Alexandra's first team at the same time as Andy Woodward and Steve Walters, who have publicly claimed they were abused by coach Barry Bennell when they were in the youth team.

But the Norwich City Academy coach and Mildenhall Town FC manager said it was only last week that he became aware of the alleged offences within Crewe's youth set-up.

His comments come as Crewe's former coach, Bennell, was yesterday charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under 14.

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire Police announced that it would become the sixth force to investigate historic sex abuse claims in football.

The matter was also raised in Parliament by culture secretary Karen Bradley, who said the Government would lend its support to address the issues 'head-on'. And local sports organisations across Norfolk have today moved to reassure parents by reviewing their own safeguarding measures.

Mr Greygoose said while there had always been 'rumours', he was never aware of any abuse at Crewe.

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But he is now calling for answers.

The 51-year-old, who also played for King's Lynn FC, said: 'What I saw on the news last week has been difficult for me.

'Steve [Walters] became a really good friend of ours, and this has all come as a shock. I just want answers as much as anyone else.

'I feel I have let them down because they were unable to talk to me. They really are brave to have spoken out and I can't praise them enough for doing this.'

Mr Greygoose played with Crewe from 1987 to 1993 - at a time when both Mr Woodward and Mr Walters were just starting out with the first team.

In the past week, both players claimed to have been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the club's former coach Bennell.

Despite becoming good friends with Mr Walters in the following years, Mr Greygoose said his former teammate had never spoken of what happened.

'Steve was that good, he should have played for England,' he said. 'I used to ask him why he left Crewe, because he dropped down a level to play for Northwich, but he never hinted at this.

'The abuse they suffered has ruined those players' lives. They have had their youth and childhood stolen from them and I just hope they can find a way to move forward.'

He said it was 'no wonder' that many cracked under the pressure of playing for a professional club while allegedly suffering sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, speaking about Barry Bennell, Mr Greygoose said he had appeared to be a 'nice guy' and was liked by many.

But he believed that the allegations had 'tainted' the club and those who played and coached there.

Local clubs review safeguarding policies

While it is understood that no incidents have been reported in Norfolk, it has led to many sports clubs reviewing their own safeguarding policies.

It comes as the chief constable of Norfolk Police, Simon Bailey, said other sports' governing bodies could begin reporting similar claims.

And through his role as the National Police Chiefs Council's lead for child protection, he has today urged victims to come forward.

The allegations have already resulted in clubs across Norfolk reviewing their own policies aimed at protecting younger members.

A spokesman for Norwich City Football Club, which has 170 players in its youth academy, said it took safeguarding 'very seriously'.

He added: 'In light of recent events the club has re-communicated with all staff its safeguarding guide for those working within the club and alerting everyone, both at Carrow Road and Colney, to internal reporting contacts, policies and the NSPCC helpline number.'

The spokesman said the club had received no complaints of abuse.

Meanwhile, Jerry Stone, chairman of the Norfolk Rugby Football Union, said there were already strict protocols in place to ensure youth teams were monitored.

'It is something we are always aware of, but when something like this happens, you always go back and look at your processes. 'We have to say that we are comfortable that something like this would be flagged up if there was an issue, but you should never be complacent.'

He said each of county's 19 accredited clubs had a safeguarding officer, and coaches have to go through Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Mr Stone added that there had been no incidents regarding abuse of young players within the county.

The Norfolk Cricket Board said it had also begun assessing its current policies to ensure all 'environments involving children' were safe.

'This is something we do periodically anyway but we have brought this forward in the light of recent events,' a spokesman said.

The EDP contacted the Norfolk County Football Association for comment yesterday, but it said it was unable to provide a response in time for deadline.

The FA's national chairman Greg Clarke said the scandal was the 'biggest crisis I can remember'.