FORMER Crewe Alexandra youth coach, Barry Bennell has been jailed for nine years for sexual abuse.

He was branded a paedophile by a judge at Chester.

On Monday the city's Crown Court heard how the skilled soccer teacher and talent scout had played on the hopes and fears of boys who thought he could make or break their careers.

He indulged in a string of disgusting sex acts.

Most of the boys the defendant abused had been frightened to say anything because they did not want to jeopardise their footballing careers.

Bennell, 44, admitted 19 offences of indecent assault against boys and four more charges of a serious sexual nature.

The offences took place between 1978 and 1992, whilst Bennell was coaching in the North West and involved 9-14 year olds.

Twenty two other charges of a similar sexual nature, denied by the defendant, were ordered to lie on the file by Judge Hew Daniel.

He told Bennell that he was a substantial risk to the public and especially young boys.

"You are a paedophile; of that there is no doubt. You have been for many years and the boys have all been harmed by you.

"You preyed on young adolescent and pre-adolescent boys whose sexual experience was nil, but you took advantage of your status as a football coach to abuse those entrusted to your care," said Judge Daniel.

"You could point ambitious young boys in the right direction and the reality of it is they they were prepared to do almost anything you asked of them. This was the grossest breach of trust. Their parents put the boys in your trust. They wanted them to become good footballers," he added.

Prosecutor Mr Alex Carlile QC said that Bennell had been well known as a good coach and talent scout throughout the North West and had been credited with the discovery of Liverpool star Rob Jones who began his league career at Crewe.

B ennell also had direct contact with Stoke and Manchester City Football Clubs.

He ran and selected teams, organised tours and virtually ran the footballing lives of many boys.

Bennell was said to be methodical in his indecency and tested the boys he targeted to see if they were receptive to his sexual advances.

Boys were abused at Butlins Holiday camp where Bennell ran a soccer school, in Spain, America and this country - even in the middle of a training session.

Victims would stay at Bennell's home and even share a bed with him, sometimes more than one at a time.

Several offences only came to light after a channel Four Dispatches programme.

In July 1995 Bennell was jailed for sex offences following a court appearance in Florida. He was released in September 1997 and was arrested for the present offences upon returning to the UK.

Formerly of Beech Avenue, Rode Heath, Bennell was said to be currently of no fixed abode.

Defending, Mr Peter Birkett said his client had at least pleaded guilty to save the victims the ordeal of coming to court. But, he added, he was not instructed to justify Bennell's conduct.

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