The former Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool player Paul Stewart has revealed he turned to drink and drugs during his career after suffering sexual abuse by a youth coach.
Stewart, who played three times for England, claimed he was assaulted on a daily basis for four years by a coach who had told him he would “make him a star”.
“One day, travelling in the car, he started to touch me. It frightened me to death, I did not know what to do, I tried to tell my parents not to let him in but I was only 11,” Stewart told the Daily Mirror.
“From then, it progressed to sexually abusing me, he said he would kill my mother, my father, my two brothers if I breathed a word about it. And at 11 years old, you believe that.
“He would say: ‘Does anyone want to drive the car?’ I sat with a leg on one side by the steering wheel. That is when he first touched me.”
He added: “The mental scars led me into other problems with drink and drugs. I know now it was a grooming process. The level of abuse got worse and worse.”
His revelations come after the former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward waived his anonymity to tell the Guardian about the abuse he suffered under the youth coach Barry Bennell. Steve Walters, one of Woodward's former team-mates, has also spoken out about his abuse at the hands of Bennell, who served nine years after admitting 23 specimen charges of sexual offences, including buggery, against six boys aged nine to 15. Woodward has criticised Crewe for their lack of apology in the first official statement the club have released about the escalating Bennell case.
Stewart, who is now a businessman based in Blackpool, said he had decided to go public nearly 40 years after the abuse in the hope more victims will come forward.
“You would not believe how many times I contemplated suicide, even when things were going well,” he said. “I was playing for Spurs and England, at the peak of my success. But there was that constant feeling. It was so dark and I just wanted to step out of it. Drinking was a release.
“Over the years I have thought: ‘Why did I not tell anybody?’ But it is because of the stigma that was attached to it. A child could be ostracised and it is hard for family to believe it. Sometimes they would believe the adult.
“I am sure there are players … who have struggled through life. I want them to feel they are not alone and not to be ashamed of it, and hopefully something can be done if these people are still alive.”