Stoke City boss Mark Hughes today backed former footballers who have spoken out about sexual abuse they suffered as youth players.
Hughes spoke out amid the horrific sexual abuse carried out by ex-Crewe Alexandra youth coach and convicted paedophile, Barry Bennell.
Ex-players of the club Andy Woodward, Chris Unsworth and Steve Walters revealed more details of the abuse suffered when they spoke to the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC.
And Hughes praised their incredible bravery.
The former Man United and Wales star said: “It was extremely brave to face something that they probably tried to forget about.”
He believes players who have come forward should now be celebrated and supported for their bravery for coming forward.
“Police checks will make it harder for these individuals to satisfy their own selfish needs,” he added.
Bennell had close links with Stoke City in the 70s before he was appointed as coach at Crewe.
But Stoke City has so far declined to make comment on the allegations and whether the club would be investigating if abuse happened at the club when Bennell was there.
Chris Unsworth opened up about the alleged sexual abuse he suffered for the first time.
Unsworth said: “I was at home when I heard Andy Woodward talking about Bennell.
“I knew once I heard this that I had to also come forward. I have never told anyone.”
Woodward was the first ex-footballer to make claims against Bennell.
He said: “I was really scared of coming forward but this could have all been prevented.
“Someone must have known what was going on. I believed Crewe Alexandra knew what was going on.”
Bennell, 62, was jailed in 1998 for sex offences against children and was imprisoned again last year.
Unsworth said: “He used to touch me and play games in the car on the way to training and also on the way back.
“He invited me to stay at his house on a number of occasions.
“He put his hands down my pants then it would get more serious and there was penetration.
“I was about 9 years old.”
Steve Walters, who also played for Crewe Alexandra whilst Bennell was coaching there, said: “It has been a massive relief to talk about this.
“I have children now and this cannot happen to other young children.”
Walters says the sexual abuse he suffered has ruined his career and his relationships.
He expressed anger towards Crewe Alexandra, claiming the club has taken no responsibility for Bennell’s actions.
He said: “We have all had our lives and careers snatched away from us.”
A dedicated NSPCC hotline was set up after the first abuse claims were made against Bennell and received more than 50 calls within the first two hours.
(Additional reporting by Rory Dallas)