Paul Stewart speaks to The Gazette ahead of emotional event in Blackpool
Former Blackpool hero Paul Stewart is expecting an emotional evening when he recounts the horrifying impact of his sex abuse nightmare with an event in his hometown this weekend.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is to stage an evening with the 53-year-old on Saturday night to aid the charity he has helped set up to develop safeguards against child sex abuse.
Stewart, who still lives in Blackpool, made more than 200 league appearances for the Seasiders in the 1980s, going on to play for Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and England in a glittering career.
But for more than 40 years the former midfielder harboured the terrible secret that over four years as a child he had been subjected to sexual abuse by the late coach/scout Frank Roper, experiences which drove him to drink, drugs and suicidal thoughts.
Having first spoken out publicly about his ordeal in November 2016 and then recounted his story in the hard-hitting autobiography ‘Damaged’, published last year, Stewart has since set up the charitable organisation SAVE (Safeguarding and Victim Engagement) with three fellow abuse survivors.
He told The Gazette: “This event on Saturday, while I will be talking about my football career, the main reason for it is about what I suffered as a child and what I’m doing now to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I’m raising awareness, hopefully, while also raising funds to be able to put people through safeguarding training. That’s what I do on an everyday basis now.
“We still feel that the things in place are still not robust enough and there are potential dangers still out there. We want to make people aware of that. We don’t want another glut of people coming forward in 15 to 20 years.”
Paul will discuss SAVE as well as his life and times at the BST event, which will take place at the No 4 pub on Newton Drive, starting at 7pm.
Tickets are priced Â£5 and include hotpot. They can also be purchased on the night.
The evening is designed to raise awareness of and funds for SAVE, which aims to make safeguarding training available to help prevent children from suffering similar experiences in future.
“I’m looking forward to doing something in my hometown,” Paul added.
“I know I was born in Manchester but I’ve spent most of my time in Blackpool and I class the town as my home.
“It’s nice to do something for the Supporters’ Trust. The people of the town really got behind me when I told my story, they were incredibly supportive.
“I expect it to be very emotional.
“What we can’t get away from is that I had a career that spanned 22 years, so I will talk about my playing career for the first 45 minutes.
“I will talk about my time at Blackpool, my time with Gazza at Tottenham and my time at Liverpool.
“Then, the second half, I will go back to when I was a child and tell the story of what happened to me and the devastating effects that had on my life, which I’m sure will be very emotional.”
The evening will also include a book-signing, raffle and memorabilia sale.
Tickets are available from the No4 on Layton Road, North West Discount Pet Foods on Burton Road, Blackpool, or via BST at www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com or [email protected]
Donations to SAVE can be made online at www.saveassociation.com, where more detailed information about the organisation can be found.