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Football coach who abused boys is jailed for nine years hy

A FOOTBALL coach who used his position of trust to prey on young boys was yesterday jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to sex offences.

Barry Bennell, 44, once employed by Crewe Alexandra and who had a close association with Stoke City and Manchester City in the 1980s, pleaded guilty to 23 specimen charges at Chester Crown Court. The court was told that over a period spanning 1978 to 1992, Bennell talent-spotted boys aged nine to 14 around the North-west and Midlands before selecting them for junior football teams which he ran in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.

He would then invite them to stay with him at his home or take them on tours to various locations including North Wales and Spain, where the sex offences took place.

Alex Carlile QC, for the prosecution, told the court that Bennell would take the boys into his trust by offering them the chance of training with his teams but also on occasion at Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City. Mr Carlile said that one of the offences had taken place on a training pitch at Crewe football club and another in the home of the club's manager, Dario Gradi.

On sentencing Bennell, Judge Huw Daniel, told him: "You are a paedophile, that is not in doubt.

"You prayed on adolescent and pre-adolescent boys whose sexual experience was nil. You had access to well known football clubs, football clothing and things of that kind.

"You could pinpoint young boys in the right direction and help them with their careers and wishes to become successful footballers. They were prepared to do almost anything you asked."