Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expresses sympathy with Barry Bennell abuse victims

Football Justice at last for Bennell's victims

The case has sparked wider allegations of sexual and physical abuse of boys at football clubs in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, some of whom went on to become heroes of the terraces and worldwide stars.

A cheer of "yes" came from the public gallery where six complainants sat with family members as the final verdicts were read out and some people were in tears. Before the trial started, he pleaded guilty to seven charges of indecent assault involving three boys but denied the remainder.

Bennell, who was associated with City and Crewe Alexandra during his career in football, was this week found guilty on 43 counts of abusing 11 boys aged between eight and 15. Worse still, according to former Crewe director Hamilton Smith - shaking with anger during his account - Crewe's much-admired former manager Dario Gradi stonewalled his attempts to stop youth footballers staying at Bennell's house.

Bennell's trial at Liverpool Crown Court heard he coached a number of junior boys' teams in the early to mid-1980s which provided youth recruits for City.

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During the course of his trial, Bennell was described as a "child molester on an industrial scale" who would groom his victims and their families.

"We broke the silence and we took back our voice".

Former Crewe player Steve Walters, 46, said his parents trusted the club and thought he was safe, but for years, boys were systematically groomed "in plain view". How was it that no one protected us?

"We suffered because of a disgusting predator but we also suffered sometimes because the sport we loved decided that the reputation of a coach, club or a sport was put above the protection of children".

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"Anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse - no matter how long ago the incident took place - is urged to come forward and report it to police".

At the end of the trial, City stated: "Firstly, and most importantly, following today's events at Liverpool Crown Court, Manchester City FC offers its heartfelt sympathy to all victims for the unimaginably traumatic experiences they have endured".

One victim, who he had admitted abusing in 1998, said he knew of four men who had been coached by Bennell, including former Wales manager Gary Speed, who had gone on to take their own lives.

The Football Association, English soccer's governing body, is overseeing an independent inquiry into historical sex abuse in the game.

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Like many other victims, he was then abused at Bennell's home as boys regularly stayed there overnight.

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