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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

Ex-Crewe academy player David Wright shocked by child sex abuse allegations centred around his boyhood club

PUBLISHED: 09:58 01 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:58 01 December 2016

David Wright joined the Crewe academy at the age of nine

David Wright joined the Crewe academy at the age of nine

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Former Ipswich Town and Colchester United footballer David Wright has spoken of his shock at the historical child sex abuse which allegedly took place during his time in the Crewe Alexandra youth academy during the 1980s.

INVESTIGATION WIDENED

More than a quarter of UK police forces are probing allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.

Essex and Norfolk Police are the latest to confirm they are investigating claims, bringing the current tally to 13.

North Yorkshire, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cheshire, Northumbria, Scotland Yard and Police Scotland have also launched inquiries.

So far police have received 250 reports and more than 50 calls were made to an NSPCC hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in football in the initial hours of opening.

Victims of sexual abuse within sport, or with any information about it, are being encouraged to speak to either the police or NSPCC. They can call the latter on: 0800 023 2642.

Former Ipswich Town and Colchester United footballer David Wright has spoken of his shock at the child sex abuse which allegedly took place during his time in the Crewe Alexandra youth academy during the 1980s.

A fortnight ago, Andy Woodward, 43, told the Guardian he was sexually abused by convicted paedophile and former football coach Barry Bennell, 62, while at Crewe between the ages of 11 and 15.

Since then, Steve Walters, 44, David White, 49, Jason Dunford, 44, Chris Unsworth, 44, and Anthony Hughes, 43, have also waived their right to anonymity and made allegations against Bennell.

Warrington-born Wright, now aged 36, came through the youth ranks at Crewe and made more than 200 appearances for the club after making his first-team debut aged 17 in 1997.

He said: “I’m really shocked, to be honest with you. I’ve spoken to some of my friends who I was with at Crewe too and they are all shocked too.

“I knew absolutely nothing about any of this, had absolutely no inclination. I’ve never heard any rumours – nothing.

“I went there as a nine-year-old and had a great, great experience all the way through until the day I left in my early 20s.

“Never at any point did I think anything like that was happening at the football club.

“I remember Barry Bennell being a coach when I was there, but he only took my age group’s sessions on a handful of occasions.

“To think what happened and how close I was to all that... It just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The former defender continued: “The players that have come forward were a couple of years ahead of me. I didn’t know them personally, but I used to watch them play.

“I saw Andy Woodward’s emotional interview on television and that was really hard to watch. You can see the damage it has done to him.

“My heart goes out to them. They are unbelievably brave to come forward and talk about what happened to them.

“It is just so, so sad that people have been put through something like that.

“Unfortunately there may be many more people in the football world, all across Great Britain, that were affected.”

Wright made more than 500 first-team appearances for Crewe, Wigan, Norwich, Ipswich, Crystal Palace, Gillingham and Colchester before retiring as a player last year.

Since then he has had coaching roles within the Ipswich and Colchester academies, managed Essex non-league side Maldon & Tiptree and recently was appointed Norwich City Under-18s manager.

“All I can say is I had a fantastic football education at Crewe – Dario Gradi and Steve Holland were the coaches who had the biggest impact on my development,” said Wright.

“I still speak to Steve Holland a lot today as he continues to give me advice on my coaching career.

“You would like to think that the world is a far safer place for children these days because there are so many checks and safeguarding procedures in place, but maybe there needs to be even more done to ensure that no young boy or girl suffers abuse. This cannot happen again.”

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