Young footballer lost drive to succeed after abuse by Barry Bennell, court told

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A promising footballer linked to a number of clubs while he was a schoolboy has told a judge how he “lost his drive” after being abused by paedophile, former coach Barry Bennell.

The man told Mr Justice Johnson how, as a youngster, he attracted the interest of clubs including Manchester City and Arsenal.

He said the late Ken Barnes, chief scout at City in the 1970s and 1980s and a former player, had once told him he had the ability to go on to captain England.

But the man, who is suing City for damages, said he had lost confidence and started drinking and using drugs.

Barry Bennell damages
Barry Bennell is serving a 34-year prison sentence for sexually abusing young boys (PA)

The man was giving evidence at a High Court trial in London, being overseen by Mr Justice Johnson, on Thursday.

He is one of eight men, now in their 40s and 50s, who have made damages claims against City and say Bennell abused them when they were playing football in the north west of England more than 30 years ago.

The men say Bennell was a City scout when he abused them.

Mr Justice Johnson has heard the eight men were sexually and emotionally abused by Bennell between 1979 and 1985 and are claiming damages after suffering psychiatric injuries.

Six are also claiming damages for loss of potential football earnings.

Mr Justice Johnson has been told that the man is claiming about £350,000 for loss of potential earnings.

City dispute the claims made by the men.

They say Bennell had been a local scout in the mid-1970s but was not a scout between 1979 and 1985.

The man told the judge that, when a schoolboy, he had trained at City, had trials at Arsenal, Brighton, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Burney, Blackburn and played at Crewe, York, and Stockport.

“Due to the abuse and confusion I felt, I lost confidence and lost my drive to succeed in football,” he said, in a witness statement.

Barry Bennell damages
Former Manchester City player Ken Barnes told the player that he had the ability to captain England (PA)

“Ken Barnes once said I could go on to play for England and captain them due to my abilities.”

The man said he had offers from multiple clubs to sign schoolboy forms.

“They were very interested in me,” he said. “There were lots of them.”

The man said Bennell had known he had a “hold over me”.

Mr Justice Johnson said the man could not be identified in media reports of the case.

The judge has been told that Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach, is serving a 34-year prison sentence, after being convicted of sexual offences against boys on five separate occasions: four in the UK and one in the US, and is being held at HMP Littlehey near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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