Northern Ireland news

Former Northern Ireland footballer Mark Williams ‘abused by paedophile coach'

Former Northern Ireland international Mark Williams. Picture from Pacemaker

FORMER Northern Ireland international Mark Williams has claimed he was one of the victims of serial paedophile and football coach Barry Bennell.

Williams, who made 36 appearances for Northern Ireland, has become the latest former football player to speak out about allegations of sexual abuse within the game.

The married father-of-one, born in Cheshire but whose mother was from Belfast, claimed yesterday that he was abused twice by Bennell, who has been imprisoned three times over 20 years for abusing young boys.

The 46-year-old former Watford player said Bennell abused him at Pegasus, the Manchester City nursery team, when Williams was 11 and three years at Crewe, the club at the centre of the football sexual abuse scandal.

"I have been watching events unfold during the last week and feel I cannot just sit back and watch my former team-mates suffer alone. I need to stand by their side," Williams told Sky News.

He said Bennell touched him "inappropriately in the genital area on both occasions and luckily for me it didn’t go any further than that".

"My life has been affected irreversibly both personally and professionally and it has been soul destroying to carry this burden for 30 years," he said.

Williams said he felt moved to speak out after former Sheffield United footballer Andy Woodward (43) said he was abused by Bennell while at Crewe Alexandra from the age of 11 to 15.

"We need to make sure there are stringent measures in place to protect our children," he said.

"No child should ever have to suffer as we and many others have."

Meanwhile, Bennell has been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy aged under 14, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

The 62-year-old is due to appear before South Cheshire Magistrates' Court on December 14.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1981 and 1985.

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