Barry Bennell, paedophile former football coach, 'God-like' figure in eyes of youth players, court hears
Eight men, now in their 40s and 50s, have made damages claims against Manchester
Paedophile former football coach Barry Bennell was a “God-like” figure, a former youth footballer has told a High Court judge.
The man, now is his 50s, told Mr Justice Johnson how he had played for a youth team in the north-west, coached by Bennell, during the 1980s and trained at Manchester City.
He said “in his eyes” Bennell was “Manchester City”.
The man, who says he was abused by Bennell and cannot be identified, was giving evidence at a High Court trial in London, being overseen by Mr Justice Johnson, on Wednesday.
Eight men, now in their 40s and 50s, have made damages claims against Manchester City and say Bennell abused them when they were playing football in the north-west of England more than 30 years ago.
They say Bennell was operating as a Manchester City scout and want damages from the club.
The judge 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.
Manchester City dispute claims made by the men.
Bosses say Bennell had been a local scout in the mid-1970s but was not a scout between 1979 and 1985.
The man, who is not one of the eight men making claims against City at the hearing, said Bennell was heavily involved with the youth side he played in.
He said he also coached by Bennell when he trained at Manchester City.
“We felt we were part of Manchester City Football Club,” said the man.
“He (Bennell) told me where I played, when I played, when I trained.”
The man added: “He was, in my eyes, Manchester City. He was a God-like figure who ran everything there.”
The man said he and fellow players had access to facilities at City and were given kit.
Mr Justice Johnson had earlier been told, by the mother of another schoolboy player coached by Bennell, how she remembered her son going to City for treatment.
The woman said she recalled her son sitting next to City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan and midfielder Asa Hartford while waiting to see City’s physiotherapist.
Mr Justice Johnson has been told that Bennell, who worked as a coach at Crewe Alexandra, 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 – at Littlehey Prison near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
Bennell is due to give evidence, via video-link from prison, at the trial later this month.