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  1. ITV Report

Football abuse survivors speak out to help prevent future victims

A group of footballers who survived horrific abuse as youth players have come together in a bid to prevent future generations from suffering similar experiences.

Seven former players who were abused by staff during their teens told ITV News about the therapeutic nature of discussing their ordeals as part of The Offside Trust - set up to support survivors and protect children.

The men hope that by being open about their experiences they can help eradicate abuse within football.

Since former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward first came forward with his harrowing testimony, the football abuse scandal has gained national attention.

Police say they have to date identified 526 potential victims of abuse, while there are 184 suspects, with cases affecting 246 clubs.

Tristan Shaw, once a 13-year-old on the books at Blackpool, suffered abuse at the hands of Frank Roper, now deceased, who had close connections with the Tangerines.

Mr Shaw's courage to speak out, he says, came from watching other survivors share their harrowing stories.

"Sometimes it's easier not to speak about it, and that's probably one of the reasons why many of us didn't," he told ITV News.

"But when you do you realise just how much you've been carrying, how much weight has been carried, how you've never been able to tackle things like the fear.

"Even now, I can't put into words what that fear was like."

Speaking of The Offside Trust, he added: "It's fantastic. It's a great way to break some of those barriers down that you carry with you."

Dean Radford and Billy Seymour hadn't seen each other in nearly 30 years before being brought together by the Trust,

Both were at Southampton together as schoolboys where they were abused by one of their coaches.

Mr Radford said football ignored him when he needed it to listen.

"I never had a phone-call from the Professional Footballers' Association, never had a phone-call from Southampton Football Club, and I think only now, because this has happened, people - at clubs, the FA - they've got to answer some questions and start doing more than what they are doing," he said.

Mr Seymour said of the Trust: "We've just met for the last couple of hours and it seems like a band of brothers - you feel at home, you don't feel odd or isolated.

"I feel safe."

Steve Walters founded The Offside Trust Credit: ITV News

Steve Walters, who played alongside Mr Woodward at Crewe in the 1980s, helped set up The Offside Trust.

He told ITV News: "Since we all came together... the numbers and the experiences, which we've all shared with one another, have been absolutely unbelievable.

"We didn't think for one minute there would be so many victims and horrible stories we've had to witness from each other, but we can take strength that we can lift that burden off our shoulders and face it."

Ex-Manchester City youth player Chris Unsworth described coming together as a group as a "good form of therapy" for all of the victims.

Micky Fallon, another former teammate of Mr Woodward, said: "It's a massive thing for us all to get together. Talking on the phone is one thing but actually meeting up in person is another.

"We're one set of guys who are all going through the same kind of experience as each other. It's really important for our healing process."