Former Crewe boss Dario Gradi insists he "knew nothing" about abuse of young players 4 years ago

Former Crewe boss Dario Gradi insists he "knew nothing" about abuse of young players

The football world has been rocked this month with several former players coming forward to reveal they were sexually abused by coaches as children.

Former Crewe Alexandra youngsters Andy Woodward and Steve Walters have spoken of abuse at the hands of Barry Bennell, a coach who worked at the club in the 1980s and early 1990s, as has ex-England forward David White, while Paul Stewart - once of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur - has opened up about abuse carried out by an unnamed coach.

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Dario Gradi was Crewe's manager during the years when Bennell was employed by the club, and he has issued a statement in which he expresses his sympathy with the coach's victims and says the first he learned of the abuse was when Bennell was arrested in 1994.

Northampton Town v Crewe AlexandraGradi spent more than 25 years as Crewe manager in two separate spells (Pete Norton/Getty Images)

'I would like to express sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell not only at Crewe Alexandra, but at other clubs in the North West,' Gradi's statement reads.

'The first I knew of Barry Bennell’s crimes was when he was arrested in the United States in 1994.

'I knew nothing of his crimes before this time when he was employed by us. No-one at the Football Club knew of Bennell’s crimes until his arrest in 1994 and his subsequent prosecution in the United Kingdom.

The football club also co-operated fully with the authorities in 2003.

The club are in the process of a review and I won’t be making any further comment until this is finalised.'

In a statement published earlier this week, Crewe Alexandra acknowledged the 'concern' about the lack of media comments from the club up until this point.

'When things come out of the blue like this, you first want to make inquiries and reflect from within. That is the process we started last week,' their statement reads.

'We are a proud Football Club and would always take any allegation seriously. Any form of abuse has no place in football or society.

'We have already concurred with the statements made by the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League that described Andy Woodward's ordeal as 'heart breaking' and praised him for his 'immense courage'.'

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Children's charity NSPCC has this week launched a new hotline to allow any young people with concerns to report them. It is available 24 hours a day and cant be reached on 0800 023 2642.