Whistle-blower Woodward angry as Crewe allow Gradi to retire on own terms
One of the key whistle-blowers in football’s child-abuse scandal says it is a “joke” that Dario Gradi was able to retire on his own terms following his controversy-hit final years at Crewe Alexandra.
The 78-year-old, who will stand down from his role as director of football, was the club’s most successful manager, taking charge of 1,359 games during three spells from 1983.
However, in 2016, he was suspended by the Football Association as investigations were launched into abuse by youth coach Barry Bennell, who is now serving a 31year sentence for abusing boys while at the club in the 1980s. Gradi has always denied any knowledge of the abuse, but Andy Woodward, the first whistle-blower to come forward to report attacks by Bennell at Crewe, told The Daily Telegraph that Gradi should have been removed from the club as soon as the abuse allegations first surfaced.
His retirement also comes two months after a 247-page review into “non-recent child sexual abuse” at former club Chelsea outlined claims that Gradi missed an opportunity to stop serial sexual offender Eddie Heath in the 1970s. Woodward said: “The fact that he has retired is from my perspective a joke because he should have been removed from that club, after everything we all went through, at the time. But in terms of the club, it’s beneficial to them and they can now move forward and heal. I’ve had nothing but admiration for the club. It was what happened when he was in charge and I wanted him to be accountable. It’s a great community club – my grievance is with the people who should not have been in office.”
‘He should have been removed from that club at the time after everything we all went through’
Dino Nocivelli, a solicitor for several other abuse victims, said his clients would “await the conclusion and the result of the FA’S investigation into Dario Gradi”, which he added were “long overdue”.
Gradi led Crewe to four promotions, including twice guiding them into the second tier. He was responsible for launching the careers of a number of players including Neil Lennon, Seth Johnson, Rob Jones Danny Murphy, David Platt, Robbie Savage and Geoff Thomas.
In 1998, Gradi was awarded an MBE for his services to football and he was honoured by the Football League in 2011 for his “Outstanding Contribution To League Football”. However, in August, Gradi was also forced to deny smoothing over abuse allegations while assistant coach at Chelsea in the 1970s. Gradi allegedly visited one of the youthteam player’s houses in the mid1970s following an allegation against former chief scout Heath. He initially responded to the review in writing, via his solicitors, saying that he recalled taking details “in respect of inappropriate behaviour” by Heath and says that it was reported to the then-interim manager. “This was the end of my involvement,” said Gradi. “I completely deny that I ever attempted at any stage to ‘smooth over’ the matter.”
Crewe said: “[We] would like to thank Dario for his outstanding 36 years of service.” Gradi was unavailable for comment.