'We are no longer afraid of you': Barry Bennell's victims speak out

Men abused by former football coach say he preyed on them as ‘little boys with a dream’

Three of Barry Bennell’s victims have made emotional statements outside Liverpool crown court after the former football coach was convicted of a total of 50 offences against boys.

Micky Fallon, who said Bennell had preyed on “little boys with a dream”, joined Chris Unsworth and Steve Walters on the steps of the court.

“We stand before you today as men united in justice, united under the banner of the Offside Trust – the organisation that’s set up by survivors, for survivors, by players, for players,” Fallon said.

(November 15, 1970) 

Barry Bennell starts coaching, aged 16

(February 15, 1974) 

Involved with Senrab FC, a junior team that had links with Chelsea

(February 15, 1978) 

Bennell’s association with Manchester City begins

(February 15, 1985) 

Joins Crewe Alexandra as youth development officer

(February 15, 1992) 

Leaves Crewe. Takes up coaching roles with Stoke City and Stone Dominoes

(February 15, 1994) 

Receives his first prison sentence, in the US, for offences against boys after being arrested there while on tour with Stone Dominoes

(February 15, 1998) 

Admits 25 offences against six boys and gets nine-year sentence in the UK

(February 15, 2004) 

Bennell released and takes new identity as Richard Jones

(February 15, 2015) 

Gets further two-year sentence for offences against 12-year-old; serves half of it

(February 15, 2016) 

Andy Woodward tells the Guardian he was abused by Bennell; other former players follow suit

(February 15, 2017) 

Bennell charged with multiple child sexual abuse offences between 1979 and 1990

(February 15, 2018) 

Found guilty of multiple sexual offences against boys from the youth systems of Manchester City and Crewe

“We stand before you today as men united, but at the same time, we were very young boys. We were little boys with a dream and our innocence was shattered. Our dreams turned into the most horrendous nightmare.”

“For decades we held our silence, just like our abuser told us. For decades we lived in fear ... But today, we have faced that fear. We broke the silence. We are no longer afraid of you, Barry Bennell.”

He paid tribute to Andy Woodward, the former professional footballer abused by Bennell, who waived his anonymity and spoke to the Guardian about his experience, shining a light on the issue, as well as the Guardian’s chief football writer, Daniel Taylor, who wrote the story.

Fallon also thanked the jurors, judge and prosecution, Alan Glover and his team at Derbyshire police, and the Offside Trust, among others.

Walters, his voice breaking, called Bennell a “disgusting predator” and criticised a “culture of complacency” in football over child protection.

“Hundreds of us were groomed, in plain view ... How can it be that no one realised something was wrong? How is it that no one protected us then? We suffered because of a disgusting predator,” said Walters, who also waived his anonymity to speak to Taylor in 2016.

“But we also suffered because sometimes the sport we loved decided that the reputation of a coach, a club or a sport was put above the protection of children. Today, for us, is about finally getting justice … No child should suffer the way we did.”

Unsworth said their case was about abuse that took place decades ago, but added: “We have this message to those who abuse children, or turn a blind eye, or cover up child sexual abuse: your time is up.”

Outside the court, Woodward said he was proud to have helped other victims get the justice they deserved.

He said the football clubs that were accountable for the abuse could have stopped it taking place. “I would personally like, after 15 months, an apology from Crewe Alexandra for what happened to us boys,” Woodward said.

Crewe Alexandra said it expressed its “deepest sympathies” to the coach’s victims.

The club said it was “not aware of any sexual abuse by Mr Bennell, nor did it receive any complaint about sexual abuse by him, either before or during his employment with the club”.

He was employed by the club for two periods between January 1985 and January 1992.

Jackie Lamb from the Crown Prosecution Service said evidence from Bennell’s victims helped police build a strong case against the former coach.

“Because of the scale of Bennell’s offending, the prosecution faced a number of challenges, including selecting charges which would adequately reflect the scale and seriousness of what Bennell did. The indictment before the court properly reflected that offending and will allow the court to sentence appropriately,” she said.

“I would like to pay tribute to the victims who have come forward to give evidence against him and I hope this outcome gives them some sense of justice being done after so many years.”