Football is once again headline news for all the wrong reasons. One man’s brave exposé about sexual abuse within football, may kick-start an investigation that could shake the game’s foundations.
The heart-wrenching interviews with former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward – in print, online and across TV networks – were incredibly upsetting and deeply worrying.
For Alex supporters, a woeful time on the pitch could and perhaps should be forgotten as shocking facts revealed by a seemingly broken man will quite rightly demand answers as everyone seeks the truth.
That the club – our club – cannot even issue a public message of support to a former player during this time, or openly state backing for any subsequent investigation, is beyond contempt.
I am sure there are legal considerations, but we can only hope that such a basic statement is forthcoming soon.
As for the subject matter, I’m loathe to even mention Barry Bennell’s name; but we must.
Most Alex supporters of a certain age will know what happened during that era, that Bennell went to prison sometime after he had left Crewe. He was locked up again, recently, when another case went to court and he was found guilty of another crime.
The latest information suggests that Bennell is now out on licence, a term that always concerns me. Somehow, having served a sentence for unforgivable crimes, he is back in society.
But that is the law of our land.
So, if nothing else, Woodward’s incredibly gutsy admission that will forever see him labelled, must act as a catalyst to uncover any other wrongdoing if it happened.
The horrific reality is that the revelations about the abuse Woodward suffered during his time at the club could reveal much more across football in general.
I have read and re-read the articles published, each time shaking my head. What a horrendous secret to carry through adult life.
For most, it is impossible to imagine being in a similar position. Worse still, Woodward stated that he felt that many others knew what was going on, and that more could have been done.
Unfortunately, much like the entertainment industry in general, for many years such matters were regularly brushed under the carpet.
That cannot be allowed to happen anymore.
Every other message posted by Alex fans on social media recently seems to include the word disillusioned. That is sad, that so many seem disconnected from the club they love.
I have always understood that Crewe Alexandra operates on a shoestring budget, and that the hard-working staff often cover many roles.
But the way the club has approached questioning from the media over the last week is disappointing to say the least; disgusting would be a better adjective.
Mega-band R.E.M. have recently unveiled a remastered version of their early 1990s’ album, Out of Time. One of the signature tracks, Losing My Religion, isn’t about losing a love of God; it’s about losing faith in something and being at the end of one’s tether.
That’s how I feel.
The way things are playing out at Crewe Alexandra, there’s a danger that many of the club’s supporters will lose all faith in an organisation that for many years has been a beacon of hope in a murky football world.
The game should be about fun, excitement and celebration. It should not leave dreamy, impressionable young players fearful for their personal safety.
What many of us know as a rock-solid football club, famed for decades of work with young up-and-coming footballers, is in danger of falling apart.
Crewe Alexandra, and clubs across the country, should step up, confront this issue head on and ensure that historical abuse cases are investigated properly.
Stonewalling is not acceptable. Men like Andy Woodward deserve better than that.
Moreover, it must never happen again.
*** update ***
Comments from Crewe Alexandra were reported in the Guardian on Monday evening, 21 November.