Ex-player ‘relieved’ to leave club, sex abuse trial of former youth coach told

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Celtic FC’s head of recruitment has told the sex abuse trial of a former Crewe Alexandra youth coach he was “relieved” to leave the club because it was not a “healthy” environment.

Lee Congerton, 45, said while he was a player for Crewe Alexandra’s youth team in the late 1980s he had stayed over at the house of coach Paul McCann, 57, who is accused of indecently assaulting a teenage boy.

Mr Congerton said he was pleased to leave the Cheshire club.

He said: “I was so relieved to get out of that environment and culture. I fell out of love with football.

“Football became my life and profession but when I stayed around those coaches it wasn’t a nice, healthy, informative environment.”

He added: “I think Paul McCann was foolish and made himself vulnerable but I also feel that he enjoyed … I think he actually liked young boys to be around him and I think that’s what that football club was all about.”

Mr Congerton has coached for Liverpool, worked as head of scouting at Chelsea and was sporting director for Sunderland FC before taking up a post at Scottish club Celtic.

He told Chester Crown Court on Wednesday that he started playing for Crewe in 1986, when he was aged 13.

He said he had stopped staying at the house of his other coach, Barry Bennell, because he felt “uncomfortable”.

He said: “He used to try and fight you and things like that, that would never happen with McCann.”

He then began to stay at McCann’s house in Crewe and said he did not feel uncomfortable with him but he and other boys would joke about his relationship with his alleged victim.

He said: “It was quite a strange relationship. (The alleged victim) I believe was quite special to Paul, there was a different relationship.

“There was a particularly strange fondness. As I’ve got older it seems odd.”

He added: “There was too much affection from the adult towards the minor.

“It just wasn’t healthy for a man that age to be around young boys and show that affection.”

Mr Congerton said he slept on the bottom bunk at McCann’s house one night when the alleged victim was on the top bunk.

He said: “I never remember Paul coming into the room on other occasions but I remember him hovering round on that occasion and being around in the room.

“I just drifted off and that was it.

“I remember lying on the bottom bunk and his legs, not adjacent but touching the bunk bed.”

But, he accepted he had not witnessed any sexual assaults by McCann.

McCann, of Great Sutton, Cheshire, denies six counts of indecent assault between 1987 and 1990.

He is alleged to have groomed his teenage victim when his family were “down on their luck” and abused him at his home in Crewe, in a local squash club and while on holiday when the boy was aged 15 to 17.

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