Guardiola expresses sympathy as Bennell victims launch suit against Man City

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Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expressed sympathy Friday for the victims of child-abuser and former youth coach Barry Bennell after some of those directly affected launched legal action against the Premier League leaders.

Bennell was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday of 43 counts of sexual abuse against 11 boys aged between eight and 15 in a case that has shamed English football.

Bennell, 64, who coached at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, was found guilty of indecent assault, buggery and attempted buggery and police said 86 more complainants have come forward since the case started

“Well of course it’s a personal issue, all the people in this room know it’s a terrible history, so my feelings and thoughts are for the victims,” Guardiola told reporters at his regular weekly news conference.

“Hopefully everyone can learn from that, society can learn from that because I’m a father, so when you see what has happened, it can happen with my sons and daughters, it’s a terrible situation.”

The Spaniard added: “And it’s good that that situation appeared and the facts about that and hopefully it doesn’t happen again. The authorities and judges have to decide in a better way to try to make a good example for the future so it doesn’t happen again.”

Both Premier League leaders Manchester City and fouth-tier club Crewe are conducting their own investigations.

The court heard that three former junior footballers are suing Manchester City while one is planning to sue Crewe and the Football Association, the English game’s governing body, for damages.

Three other complainants in the trial have sought legal advice on a potential compensation claim for injuries and losses.

Jurors were told by one complainant that he thought City officials Ken Barnes and Mike Grimsley knew Bennell was targeting boys.

Both Grimsley, a youth team coach, and the family of chief scout and former player Barnes, who died in 2010, have said they were unaware of any abuse.

Barnes previously confirmed to Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches — Soccer’s Foul Play broadcast in January 1997 — that then Crewe chairman Norman Rowlinson had concerns about Bennell, who he said had “a certain magnetic attraction with boys, like the Pied Piper” – and contacted City.

“He (Rowlinson) said we’ve had one or two reports about him … mucking about with kids or something like that.”I said ‘no, I can’t help you really because I have no evidence whatsoever from that side of the fence’.”