Workington AFC has offered its full support to Paul Stewart following the BBC documentary, Football’s Darkest Secret. Paul, who ended a distinguished career with an eighteen-month stint at Borough Park in 2000, appeared in the harrowing accounts of several footballers screened by the BBC earlier this week.
He was one of a number of young players who suffered repeated abuse by so-called coaches during their boyhood years. It was a hard watch for thousands of supporters the length and breadth of the country but more poignant for Reds followers because of his two seasons at the club, towards the end of an illustrious career in the game. But for all the glory, including scoring in a Cup Final and pulling on an England shirt, the heartache of a troubled, empty soul was plain to see.
The courage displayed by Paul, Steve Walters, David White, Andy Woodward, Garry Cliffe and others was commendable in view of what they had been through during their formative years. Paul, from teenager to a guy in his mid-fifties, has been tortured mentally to such an extent he cannot look back on playing top-flight football with any satisfaction. Instead, he recalls the sordid behavior of evil predators like Frank Roper and Barry Bennell who became a cancer to the game, we all love, over decades. Admitting to drink and drugs consumption to deal with the depression, Paul broke down emotionally and seeing him in tears and his Mum a forlorn shadow of herself was difficult but compelling viewing.
Former Director Steve Durham added “These secrets were well hidden when Paul starred, and skippered, Reds during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. He came across as one decent guy, was well respected by the players and supporters alike and made a positive contribution to the cause. If only we had known then what we know now.”
John Walsh was equally praiseworthy saying, “Paul was a hugely popular figure both on and off the field, and he played a major part in our success under Peter Hampton in winning the North Western Trains League title.”
“For someone who had played at the very highest level, in the First Division and for England, it was a remarkable signing by the Reds and Paul was the perfect role model for the club. Modest, unassuming and professional in all he did his two years with the Reds are fondly remembered by those who enjoyed his immense contributions “
Chairman Dave Bowden added, “For John and Steve to pay such glowing tributes to Paul is a wonderful testament to his time with us as a player. But I think that his courage in sharing this torment, and opening this issue up, will have a greater impact on the game. He has the admiration of all of us who love this game and I know we all wish him the very best for a happier future.”
For many years Workington AFC has had an FA accredited Club Welfare Officer (CWO) in place and all adults that have direct contact with our own youth players have covered child welfare as an essential aspect of their coaching qualifications.
Throughout the whole family at Workington AFC: 1st Team; Development Squad; Ladies: RITC, Juniors and the new Foundation, ensuing that football is a safe environment of all Under 18’s and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance.
The Board of Directors have appointed a Safeguarding Team within the Club, headed by the CWO. Their role is to enhance what is already in place and ensure that the very best practices of Safeguarding Children in Football are enshrined in everything we do within the Club. More information will be published on the Club’s website as the work of the new Team progresses.
The Workington AFC Safeguarding Team have a designated contact email. Any queries or questions regarding any aspects of Safeguarding at the Club can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org