Whis­tle-blower Wood­ward an­gry as Crewe al­low Gradi to re­tire on own terms

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Tom Mor­gan SPORTS NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.

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