Warnock praises 'brave' Andy Woodward over sex abuse

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Media captionWarnock said he was "proud" of Andy Woodward for speaking out about the abuse

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock has praised the bravery of his former player Andy Woodward for speaking out about being sexually abused by a coach as a child.

The ex-Bury and Sheffield United player was abused while at Crewe Alexandra from the age of 11 to 15.

His abuser, Barry Bennell, was jailed for nine years in 1998 after admitting sexual offences against six boys.

Warnock said Mr Woodward gave other alleged victims the courage to speak.

Mr Woodward, was the first to go public last week, and has since been followed by several others who have made allegations about being sexually abused by coaches as children.

Cheshire Police said 11 people had come forward after Mr Woodward waived his anonymity, including his fellow ex-Crewe player Steve Walters, 44, who said he had been abused by Bennell, when he was 13 or 14, during a trip to Anglesey.

A dedicated NSPCC hotline - 0800 023 2642 - set up after the abuse claims came to light, received more than 50 calls within its first two hours.

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Media captionAndy Woodward speaks about being sexually abused by his coach

Warnock said he had spoken to Mr Woodward before he went public.

''I had an hour with him on the phone and in that conversation he broke down in tears because it's horrific,'' the Cardiff manager said.

''It's alright saying it's a long time ago but to actually confront it in the media takes so much guts.

''I've told him how proud I am of him and I think by his bravery it will open up everything now and it will be a relief for so many ex-players that have been through the same situation.''

He added: ''I wasn't aware how bad it was at the time when I helped him. He was at Bury and I thought he was outstanding so I'd promised to take him with me when I went to Sheffield United.

''But then he just lost his form overnight with no real reason, until he spoke to me. I felt I had to carry on and take him because I'd given him my word.

''When you listen to his story and when I look back now, I couldn't understand it at the time and I don't think any of us could ever envisage what Andy and the other lads have had to go through.

''I think it becomes easier now. Now it's out in the open I think they can get on with their lives and I think Andy will help a lot of people. He's that type of person who will talk to those who want privacy and help them.

''It's a good thing he's set in motion because I think what Andy brought out is the tip of the iceberg and we'll see that in the coming months.''

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Image caption Barry Bennell has been convicted several times of child abuse

Warnock said measures had been put in place in recent years regarding checks on young players' coaches and there was now support for those who need it.

He said: ''I think there has to be changes but we have everything in place, financially and everything, we have no excuse to let young lads down now.

''The helplines they are setting up at every level, if a parent's worried, there's help there. It has to be, not just the professionals, but the Sunday Leagues."

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