A former Morecambe footballer has revealed that he was one of the victims of a serial paedophile.
Steve Walters, who played for the Shrimps in a famous FA Cup Third Round game, has broken his 30-year silence on the ordeal he suffered at the hands of football coach Barry Bennell as a teenager at Crewe Alexandra.
Mr Walters, 44, was the second former footballer to waive anonymity and speak up against Bennell.
His fellow former Crewe player Andy Woodward was the first to come forward about abuse he suffered as a child footballer.
Bennell, a former scout and youth coach at Crewe, was jailed for nine years in 1998 after admitting sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 15, one of them being Woodward. Bennell, who described himself in court as “a monster”, is now 62 and out on licence using the name Richard Jones, after being sentenced to two years in prison in May 2015 for a historical case involving a 12-year-boy on a football course in Macclesfield.
Mr Walters was not part of the original case against Bennell. But speaking to the national Guardian newspaper this week he said: “All these years, I’ve had this secret inside me. But I have to let it all out now. It’s the only way. I want closure and I know, for a fact, this is going to help me move on.”
He said he feared that many others had been targeted by Bennell.
Walters was tipped for the very top of the game as a teenager. He first met Bennell after winning a football competition at Butlins to train with Manchester United aged 12.
He also trained with England schoolboys in the same crop of players as future England stars Andy Cole and Ian Walker.
Walters was Crewe’s youngest ever debutant in 1988, aged 16 years and 119 days, and later scored for them against Chelsea in an FA Cup game.
But he says Bennell’s abuse ruined any chance of him realising his potential.
“The first time he tried anything I can remember getting a bit aggressive with him,” Walters told the Guardian.
“It was a dark room and I was on the top bunk when he came in. I told him to get out and, after that, nothing happened for quite a while. Then, two or three months later, it started again.
“I just wish I could turn the clocks back but I was at such a young age I felt almost paralysed.”
Walters never got out of the lower leagues, leaving Crewe in 1995 for Northwich Victoria, then signed for Morecambe in 2000.
He played 22 times for Morecambe from 2000 to 2001, including in the FA Cup Third Round match at Christie Park against Premier League Ipswich Town in January 2001.
He went on to play for Stevenage Borough before his career ended in 2011.
Mr Walters is one of six people to approach Cheshire police after Mr Woodward broke his silence over abuse by Bennell.
Crewe chairman John Bowler said he was “infuriated and very disappointed” with Bennell’s previous crimes and that the club was “distressed”.
Meanwhile former Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool midfielder Paul Stewart has also revealed he was sexually assaulted by a youth team coach as a child.