Ex-Sunderland star Paul Stewart says he was abused by football coach as a youngster

Paul Stewart during his Sunderland playing days.
Paul Stewart during his Sunderland playing days.

Former Sunderland, Spurs and Liverpool footballer Paul Stewart has said he was abused as a child by a football coach.

Stewart, 52, alleges he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a man who threatened to kill his family if he spoke out.

The striker, who won three England caps, waived his anonymity in an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Other boys were also abused by the same man, claimed Stewart, who started his career at Blackpool and also went on to play for Manchester City and Sunderland.

Stewart told the newspaper: "The mental scars led me into other problems with drink and drugs. I know now it was a grooming process. The level of abuse got worse and worse."

He added that if he was not playing well then the trainer would threaten him with violence as well as sexual abuse.

Stewart, a married father-of-three, said revelations by fellow footballer Andy Woodward that he was abused by coach Barry Bennell at Crewe Alexandra had "brought a lot of issues up for me".

Stewart said: "I wanted people to know how difficult it was to come forward.

It stirred up a lot of my past which I thought I had buried."

The claims by the former FA Cup winner with Spurs follow Woodward's interview with The Guardian in which he said he suffered at the hands of Bennell between the ages of 11 and 15.

Six people have since come forward to say they wish to speak to detectives, said Cheshire Police.

Bennell was jailed for nine years in 1998 after pleading guilty to sexual offences.

In his interview, Woodward said: "My life has been ruined until the age of 43, but how many others are there?

"I'm talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear."

Sue Ravenlaw, head of equality and safeguarding at the Football Association, said she applauded Woodward's courage after he spoke out.

She added that the FA takes all matters of safeguarding and child protection seriously and encouraged anyone who may have experienced or is experiencing abuse in football to contact the NSPCC or Childline.