A former Newcastle United player has waived his anonymity to say he was the victim of sexual abuse during his time at the club, and reveal the secret ordeal he suffered during the years when Kevin Keegan came close to turning the club into Premier League champions.
David Eatock, one of Keegan's signings, said he had felt compelled to come forward because of the blizzard of media coverage since Andy Woodward's interview in the Guardian two weeks ago, and because he had realised, after 20 years with his own secrets, that others had been preyed upon at other clubs and were no longer willing to suffer in silence.
The difference is that Eatock was older than the other victims, having joined Newcastle at the age of 18, and considers himself "lucky" compared with some of the more harrowing accounts he has read since The Guardian opened up a scandal that the Football Association's chairman, Greg Clarke, has described as among the biggest crises he has known in the sport.
Eatock's story relates to two incidents involving George Ormond, once a highly regarded coach in Newcastle's junior set-up who was described as a "predatory abuser of young boys" when he was sentenced to six years in 2002 for a string of offences committed over almost 25 years.
Now 40, Eatock is receiving therapy for a number of issues that he links, in part, to his ordeal. He has given a statement to the police, having never previously reported Ormond, and is fiercely critical of how Newcastle looked after him – “a little boy in a man’s world” – when he joined them in the year that Keegan’s team led the Premier League by 12 points before eventually being overhauled by Manchester United.
Eatock, described as having "the world at his feet" when Newcastle signed him in September 1995, has also criticised Eric Bristow for the comments on Twitter that led to Sky Sports announcing it would not employ the former world darts champions as one of its pundits again.
“One of the more difficult parts for me is that I wasn’t as young as some of the others,” Eatock said. “I saw Eric Bristow saying that these boys, when they had grown up and were big enough to defend themselves, should have found the guy who abused them and smashed his face in. Well, I was 18 when I got to know George Ormond. I can still remember the look on his face, how terrifying it was, and how his eyes were possessed. Unless you have been in that position, with a grown man in his 40s, you don’t know how you would possibly react. I thought Bristow’s comments were disgusting, to be honest.”
Eatock’s story goes back to when he broke into Chorley’s first team at the age of 17. Burnley had wanted him, along with several other clubs, before Newcastle heard about the teenage centre-forward and invited him for a trial.
“In that first training session I was on fire,” Eatock said. “I was unstoppable. My finishing was top quality, and directly afterwards Keegan got me in the boot-room. He introduced himself, had a joke about my Chorley accent and then told me straight: ‘We’re going to put a bid in and as long as Chorley don’t ask for anything silly we’re going to buy you.’
“My problem was I was a homebird. I had never been away from home before and the thought of going to Newcastle, leaving my family, a really close family, terrified me. But I went up to Newcastle to sign a three-year contract and the club told they were going to pay six months’ rent to put me in a guesthouse.
“They had two places they used within walking distance of the ground. In one there were all the YTS [Youth Training Scheme] lads, but I was in the other one. It was completely empty apart from me, and no other player stopped there in all my time. I was alone, lonely. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have any friends. And I was there, completely by myself.”
The £25,000 signing was already vaguely aware of Ormond after playing in a county match at schoolboy level. “I’d played for Lancashire against Northumberland and scored a hat-trick. I’d done really well and the manager of Northumberland came up to me afterwards to congratulate me.
“He shook my hand and said he was going to keep an eye out for me. ‘What a nice guy,’ I thought. I didn’t know anything about him until I got to Newcastle and it turned out that was George Ormond.
“The thing is, our paths never actually needed to cross. He was coaching Newcastle’s schoolboys while I was training with the youth team, the reserves and sometimes the first team. But within the first two or three weeks of me arriving in Newcastle, maybe even the first week, he just randomly turned up at the hotel in his coaching gear.
“‘Hi, I’m George, I’ve kept my eye on you, I told you I would, and what an achievement, you’ve signed for Newcastle United.’ He just came across as a decent guy. ‘I’m one of the coaches,’ he said, ‘why don’t I take you out for a drink?’
“I was lonely. I had nothing to do. We’d train from 10am to 12.30pm but the rest of the day I had to myself.
“It was all a massive culture shock so I went to the pub with him and he started buying me pint after pint. I was still a child really, but immediately he was talking to me about sex, asking me about my penis, just the strangest things.
“He’d go on about girls and who he’d slept with. He was funny, charismatic, very confident, and someone I could talk to. My dad had been diagnosed with bowel cancer. I’d just found out and I confided in George that my dad was potentially dying. I’d only just met him but when we got back to the hotel he followed me back to my room. Then the door closed and he was in there with me.”
Ormond, he says, stood over his bed, unzipped himself and performed a sexual act on himself.
“I froze,” Eatock says. “It was just horrific. I think he must have seen my reaction, that I was terrified, because in the end he put it away and left. All I could think was: ‘I want to go home now, I want to go home, what the fuck just happened?’ That was literally: ‘Welcome to being a professional footballer, welcome to Newcastle United,’ away from home, away from your family, in a little hotel on your own.”
Like so many of the other former players who have come forward, Eatock felt he was unable to tell anyone. “I was embarrassed. I’m not homophobic by any stretch of the imagination but I was worried that people were going to think I was gay and that I must have encouraged it. The culture back then was so tough. Even now, no gay footballers are coming out. But 20 years ago it was even harder. It was all masculine, with very strong characters. If you were injured for more than a week it would be: ‘Fucking hell, Eatock, fucking injured again?’
“I didn’t say anything, but from that moment I lost my confidence. I had no idea why it happened. I just went in a shell – from thinking I was unstoppable to being really shy and quiet and not really wanting to engage with the managers. It really affected me.”
Over time, he says, he began to think he should give Ormond the benefit of the doubt. “He was always going out with the young lads. Sometimes I’d be out, too. I moved out of the guesthouse and my housemate, who was like a big brother, didn’t like him. But all the other lads thought he was ace. He’d get the beers in, tell us how he’d pulled all these girls. He was always on about sex, he was absolutely preoccupied with sex. But he had a bit of banter. He was a joker, properly funny.
“It was another two and a half years before he indecently assaulted me and I’ve always had this irrational thought that I was to blame. I would ask myself: why would you go out with somebody who had done that in my room and made you feel really uncomfortable? But he was also the one person who told me I had a great future and was willing to put an arm around me.
“Every time I came home, my dad was losing his hair because of the cancer. The hardest thing for me was being away from home. Then I went back to Newcastle and there was this guy who was actually nice to me, being a friend. I pushed what had happened to the back of my mind. ‘Maybe that’s just how grown men act sometimes,’ I’d think. I’ve heard of footballers playing dodgy games. So was it me? Or him? I didn’t really know. I just knew he was the one person who would tell me exactly what I wanted to hear.
“In Chorley I was a big fish in a little pond. I went to Newcastle and I was absolutely jack-shit. That was difficult for me, mentally. I was always one of those players who needed an arm around their shoulder and to be told that I was playing really well.
“I had an injury, my hip flexor, and I’d ask the physio for a rub before I went out. Three days in a row I asked. In the end the physio said: ‘I hope you don’t fucking expect this from me every day, because I’m not fucking doing it.’ So I was playing with an injury. I was too scared to tell people. That was how soft I was. It was horrendous really. I’d just moved away from home, a young kid, with all that self-doubt. My experience of being a professional footballer at Newcastle United … it was pretty shit.”
In 1998, still waiting to make his first-team debut, it became obvious that there was no future for him at the club. "They had Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla, Jon Dahl Tomasson, David Ginola, Keith Gillespie, all international footballers. To get in the first team was going to be difficult and I told George it looked like I might be leaving. We went out again – he picked me up in his van and I remember it was full of cones and balls. He bought me a few drinks and everything was normal until we set off on the way back. That was when he started asking me about my penis again. He was sitting there, driving, chatting away, but then his entire demeanour just changed. He leant across, still driving, and pushed his hand down my trousers.
“He was like a man possessed. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t function. I was in good shape, a footballer of 21, but I could not speak – the fear, the anger, the shock, whatever you want to call it – I just froze. He moved his hand eventually and I could not speak for the rest of the journey. We never uttered a word to each other.
“When he dropped me off I was in so much shock – ‘what the fuck just happened?’ – but there was also this awful feeling of guilt and shame. ‘I must be to blame for this,’ I thought, ‘I must have led him on and I can’t tell anyone – who the fuck is going to believe me against him, a coach for Newcastle? I’m a piece of shit, I’m nothing.’ I wanted to cry but I couldn’t even cry. I was in a daze. And that was the last time I ever saw him.”
Eatock never told anyone until his wife, Jo, read a newspaper story about Ormond being convicted of 12 indecent assaults and one attempted indecent assault. Eatock has since told his twin, Paul, and older brother, Andy, and wonders if other staff at St James’ Park had suspicions about Ormond. One, he says, had made a comment – “you know what he’s like” – after rumours within the club that Ormond had climbed into a boy’s bed. “It was like that moment in a film, early on, when it doesn’t really make sense at the time,” Eatock says. “By the end of the film you know exactly what it means, or you think you do.”
For Eatock, it has been a difficult journey. Shortly after leaving Newcastle, he ruptured knee ligaments and ended up on the non-league circuit. He is now a personal trainer. Yet life has been a struggle at times. “I was sexually abused, I ruptured my ligaments and my father died, all in the space of five months. For the last 10 years I’ve suffered from anxiety. I have OCD that has affected my life. I’ve had two mental breakdowns where I’ve been agoraphobic for six months. I’m seeing a therapist. It was the combination of everything and, more than anything else, it has reinforced that I was a boy in a man’s world.
"I'm just glad Andy Woodward, by speaking out, has given me the strength to do this because I never would have otherwise. It has been like a knot in my brain and I'm now trying to pick apart that knot."
The club said: “Newcastle United will cooperate fully with the police and relevant authorities and provide every assistance we can when we receive further information about any allegations.
“The club would encourage anyone with information about possible child abuse in our game to report their concerns to the police, the football authorities or the NSPCC. The FA has commissioned in conjunction with the NSPCC a specific helpline for individuals who wish to come forward with further information. The number is 0800 023 2642.”