FORMER LEEDS UNITED and Sheffield United forward David White has become the fourth retired footballer in a week to say he was sexually abused in the early stages of his career.
White, now 49, made nearly 400 league appearances for Manchester City, Leeds United and Sheffield United between 1985 and 1998, and earned his single England cap in 1992.
Before joining City’s youth set-up, the Manchester-born forward was spotted playing junior football by Barry Bennell, a coach and talent scout who sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onward.
White alleges it was Bennell who abused him as a youngster.
“In light of recent press stories, I wish to confirm that I was sexually abused by my former football coach, Barry Bennell, in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” said White in a written statement.
“This abuse took place while I was attached to Whitehill FC, a junior team based in Manchester.”
White’s decision to reveal his story came after Professional Footballers’ Association boss Gordon Taylor revealed the number of players to contact the union with similar stories in the last week had reached double figures.
Taylor was speaking after Cheshire Police said 11 individuals have contacted them as they expand their investigation into Bennell’s activities.
They have been looking again at the convicted paedophile after ex-footballer Andy Woodward waived his anonymity from an earlier trial to tell The Guardian about his abuse by Bennell in the 1980s while he was at Crewe.
Woodward’s harrowing account prompted another former Crewe player, Steve Walters, to tell The Guardian about his alleged abuse by Bennell on Tuesday, before former Tottenham and Liverpool star Paul Stewart told the Daily Mirror about his treatment by a different youth coach in the 1970s.
White’s statement revealed he has been writing about his experience for the last year and a book will be published soon.
White added: “For a number of reasons, and for nearly two decades, I kept my ordeal secret from my family and friends.
“Circumstances took me away from the abuse before it escalated. I salute Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart for so bravely revealing their personal tragedies.
“The physical abuse they and others suffered was certainly more extreme and prolonged than my ordeal, and I cannot be sure that I would have their courage.”
Taylor had also praised Woodward’s “bravery” and said “many other ex-players and apprentices are now contacting us - it is double figures now”.
The PFA chief added that this is a “timely warning for everybody in football about our duty of care to these youngsters” and said he wanted his union to be a “safe haven of support”.
The 71-year-old, who played professional football from 1962 to 1980, said the union had previously tried to investigate rumours of abuse but could not get anybody to speak out.
Taylor said that only changed in the mid-1990s when Bennell’s conviction for raping a British boy at a football camp in the United States came to light. Prior to that, Bennell had worked with Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior clubs in the north west and midlands.
Bennell was later convicted at Chester Crown Court of 23 offences against six boys, aged from nine to 15, and was sentenced to nine years in jail. He was given a further sentence in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another boy at a camp in Macclesfield in 1980.
Earlier on Wednesday, Detective Inspector Sarah Hall of Cheshire Police’s public protection unit said: “We have been made aware of a number of people who have come forward wishing to speak to the police.”
She urged anybody else who has been a victim, “no matter how long ago”, to contact police on 101.
Taylor issued the same call, saying the PFA set up a confidential 24-hour helpline in 2014 and the union has been funding the Sporting Chance clinic to provide independent advice and counselling.
Woodward, who was abused by Bennell when he joined Crewe’s academy at the age of 11 and testified against him in 1998, told Press Association Sport the coach had “two or three favourites in every team and operated for more than 20 years”.
Walters was a year ahead of Woodward in Crewe’s youth set-up but was allegedly abused by Bennell from the age of 12 until 14.
Crewe’s long-standing chairman John Bowler issued a statement on Tuesday to say an internal investigation has been launched.
It is clear now, though, that the scandal goes beyond Crewe, a small club with a proud tradition of developing football talent.
Stewart, now 52, told the Daily Mirror he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a different coach who threatened to kill his family if he spoke out.
The Mancunian, who also had stints with Blackpool, Manchester City and Sunderland, added that Woodward’s revelations had “brought a lot of issues up for me” and said he believes his abuser also attacked other young players.