Bennell ‘abused boy after talk by Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall’
The boy was allegedly sexually assaulted by the former football coach up to 100 times, Liverpool Crown Court was told.
An alleged victim of Barry Bennell has told a court he was abused by the former football coach in the changing rooms of Crewe Alexandra after a talk given by Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall.
The complainant told Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday he had been sexually assaulted by the 64-year-old up to 100 times including at the coach’s home, at Butlins in Pwllheli and at a video shop Bennell owned.
Asked if the abuse had happened anywhere else, he said: “Yes, at the Crewe Alexandra ground as well, the changing room.”
He told the court: “Neville Southall, the goalie of Everton at the time, had just given a talk, so that’s why it stuck in my mind.”
He said he thought he and Bennell had been in the changing rooms on their own after the talk, which was given to youngsters in a room at the ground.
He also described being abused at Bennell’s video shop, which was opposite Crewe’s Gresty Road ground.
“I remember this more as well because the shop was open,” he said.
The complainant told the court the second time he was abused by Bennell was on a trip to Butlins.
He said: “He just said that I did OK and ‘just pretend it’s your girlfriend’.”
The court heard a transcript of a police interview with Bennell in which he said boys who were playing for Crewe would stay over with him or with the club’s manager Dario Gradi.
He said the plan was “to save money and to make sure the kids weren’t in a strange bed and breakfast”.
Bennell said his relationship with Mr Gradi was “fantastic” but he said the manager “didn’t know anything” about Bennell abusing boys.
He said: “He loves kids but he wouldn’t cross that line.”
Earlier on Tuesday the court heard from former youth footballer Martin Clarke who said he had interrupted Bennell abusing another youngster when he returned to the ground after forgetting his football boots following a game.
He said: “Obviously, Barry was startled to see me come back. He got up and shouted at me and said ‘what the f*** are you doing?’ and I said ‘I have come for me boots and what are you f****** doing?’.
“At that point he jumped up, stormed at me and pinned me to the wall. If you can imagine Star Wars and Darth Vader, it was like a Darth Vader grip.”
Mr Clarke said the young boy ran out of the changing room and Bennell then told him: “You have not seen anything. If you say anything to anyone I will make sure I will finish your football career here and now.”
The witness said that from then on Bennell had a “psychological hold” over him.
Bennell denies 48 child sexual abuse offences against 11 complainants between 1979 and 1990.
He pleaded guilty to seven offences of indecent assault before the trial began and the jury has heard he has previously been convicted for similar offences.
Eleanor Laws QC, cross-examining, said to the complainant: “I am going to suggest that Neville Southall never came to give a talk to the boys.”
The complainant replied: “It is not something you make up. I remember it quite vividly.”
He denied having had any discussions about compensation as he told the jury: “I don’t think anything would compensate that anyway.”
But he agreed he wished to claim damages against Crewe and the Football Association (FA).
He said: “I feel quite bitter towards Crewe Alexandra.”
Miss Laws said: “I am going to suggest you have made these allegations up, either for money or whatever reason.”
“That is ridiculous,” replied the complainant.
Miss Laws said: “You essentially blame Crewe Alexandra and the FA for your failed career.”
The complainant replied: “I blame Barry for my failed life, not my football career.”
The jury heard he had a number of convictions over a 20-year period as the complainant told them: “My life went dramatically downhill after the abuse.”
The trial continues on Thursday.