David Eatock: It was a part of my life I wanted to forget '“ I'd kept it secret for such a long time
A former Chorley FC player has bravely spoken out about the horrific sexual abuse he says he suffered while at a Premier League football club.
David Eatock was living every schoolboy footballer’s dream when he was invited to a trial at Premier League Newcastle United in 1995.
The Chorley-born teenage striker had been banging in the goals for Chorley Town.
Soon Burnley, along with a host of other North West teams, were interested in securing his signature.
But it was Kevin Keegan’s side that sealed the deal after the Liverpool and England legend himself informed the former Wigan centre of excellence player the Toon Army would be putting an offer in.
Mr Eatock is the latest footballer to speak out on the sex abuse scandal engulfing football.
He has waived his right to anonymity by providing details of the sexual abuse he says he suffered during the 1990s.
He has felt compelled to do so after seeing Andy Woodward, a former teammate, become the first player to reveal details of abuse he suffered.
The 40-year-old said he had not seen Andy Woodward for more than a decade but had fond memories of playing alongside him for Chorley, describing him as a lovely man.
He said: “For 13 years I hadn’t seen him, until I saw it on the BBC news. I was speechless, that it had happened to somebody...somebody that I knew.
“I thought, wow, we’ve got something in common and I was disgusted (to hear what he had been through), that this had happened to him.
“I thought I would support Andy, but I needed to do it for myself as well. I just want it to stop happening.”
Mr Eatock has been in therapy for mental health issues he traces back, in part, to the abuse he suffered while a young player.
Aged 18 at the time of the first assault, his experience differs from fellow victims to have spoken out recently who were abused at a younger age.
Mr Eatock said he was groomed over a period of months by his abuser before the assaults began.
“He would tell me things I wanted to hear like ‘I’ve heard really good things about you, Dave. Keep your head down and you’ll continue to impress’. I wanted that kind of praise and he was the one giving it to me.”
Mr Eatock is critical of Newcastle for not looking out for what he describes as a “boy in a man’s world.”
“I do have a lot of anger with the club for that. It needn’t have been like that.”
“What is disappointing is I believe that if I had come from a different club (a more high profile club than Chorley) I perhaps would have been put up in a hotel with security and CCTV and nothing like this would have been able to happen.”
Mr Eatock has spoken about not feeling able to speak about what happened to him at the time for fear of not being believed, surrounded as he was by the tough and masculine culture of 90s football.
But seeing Andy Woodward speak out in recent weeks changed his viewpoint.
He now hopes speaking out will bring him an element of “closure” on what he has been through, and he has now spoken to the police about his ordeal.
He said: “I don’t think I would have done if I hadn’t seen another player. It was because of that emotional attachment with Andy, it was such a poignant statement he made.
“It was part of my life I wanted to forget, I’d kept it a secret for such a long time. What happened to me pales in significance to what Andy went through.
“But sexual abuse is still sexual abuse and that’s what happened to me.
“I thought: If he can come out and say what happened to him, then I can. You know they say ‘the truth will set you free’ well, I do feel that.”
Having had an extended lower-league career, Mr Eatock, who is now a personal trainer, had stopped playing completely as he confronted his mental health issues. His hopes of making it as a professional after leaving Newcastle had been dashed by a serious knee injury.
In recent years he returned to the game with a veterans’ team as he said he wanted “to go out on his own terms.”
And being back on the pitch brought with it the returning thrill of “banging a few goals in”.
He said: “I’m happy with what I achieved in the game but because of what happened it badly affected my confidence. When I signed for Newcastle I was absolutely flying. When I left I was a shell of my former self.”
A club statement said: “Newcastle United will cooperate fully with the police and relevant authorities and provide every assistance we can when we receive further information about any allegations.
“The club would encourage anyone with information about possible child abuse in our game to report their concerns to the police, the football authorities or the NSPCC.
The FA has commissioned in conjunction with the NSPCC a specific helpline for individuals who wish to come forward with further information. The number is 0800 023 2642.”