Stoke in player abuse court case
Premier League club Stoke City are embroiled in a landmark civil case with an ex-apprentice footballer who alleges he was subjected to physical abuse at the hands of a former player in the 1980s.
George Blackstock, 44, who had been scouted by the then Second Division side when he was just short of 16, was allegedly subjected to "The Glove" by then goalkeeper Peter Fox between 1986 and 1988.
Upon falling short of his duties as a trainee, Mr Blackstock was allegedly held down by a number of first team players as Mr Fox inserted the finger of a goalkeeper's glove smeared in Ralgex - a deep heat treatment - into his anus for a number of seconds.
Mr Blackstock, of Belfast, has started legal action for damages against the club and Mr Fox for a breach of duty after telling the court he had been left needing therapy.
The landmark civil case, described as a "David and Goliath battle", is being held at Preston County Court.
Today the hearing heard that trainees at the time were treated as "skivvies" to first team players and it was "part of the culture of the club to maintain a distance between first team players and apprentices".
Mr Fox is accused of twice using "The Glove" or "The Finger" on Mr Blackstock.
Mr Blackstock also alleges that a large hot metal teapot was applied to his buttocks by an unidentified first team player after making refreshments.
He was described as feeling "humiliated" after the "painful, intrusive and immediately distressing" abuse and is now prescribed Temazepam and sleeping tablets.
The club and player deny his claims.
Mr Blackstock said: "I feel, to be honest with you, it has destroyed me as a person over the last years having to deal with him (Fox). It all came back to the forefront, it's been very difficult mentally and psychologically."
He was asked what he was hoping to achieve in pursuing the case.
"What am I hoping to achieve? I want these people who inflicted this on me to be held accountable for their actions."
He said he was left needing therapy which had been helpful in some ways, but added: "In others, no, because having to relive it all again is quite traumatic. I would probably say I will need more treatment when I return home to Belfast."
Representing Mr Blackstock, Aswini Weereratne QC said: "It is very much his case that the practice of 'gloving' was unacceptable in 1986 and is unacceptable today.
"His claim for damages, that he had been physically assaulted by Mr Fox between 1986 and 1988. It is his case that these two assaults had a profound effect on him psychologically and also that it had an effect on his ability to play professional football.
"It is a type of dispute often referred to as David and Goliath battle. David is Mr Blackstock, who was aged between 15 and 16."
The first assault was said to have taken place when he was 16.
Ms Weereratne told the hearing that the traineeship had been "a prized apprenticeship at an English football club" after Mr Blackstock.
He left his Belfast home in July 1986 to take the place.
The court heard that part of his role was to do "menial jobs" for first team players such as cleaning their boots, setting out their kits and putting them in the laundry.
Trainees were also required to clean up dressing rooms and showers.
Ms Weereratne added: "The apprentices did all this, they skivvied for the first team players."
She told the hearing that Mr Fox had been a senior player with Stoke City and was the first team goalkeeper.
Mr Blackstock must prove the two assaults and also the damages he has suffered as a result. In relation to Stoke City he must prove vicarious liability.