Following on from last month’s exclusive look surrounding the recent outcome of the Chelsea sex abuse investigation, The Chelsea Echo was asked to take a look and report on yet another, unfortunate story within the ‘dark side of football’.
A harrowing story of lies, manipulation and sexual abuse.
The Celtic Boys Club.
“Get him.”Andrew Gray on his deathbed to his sister
Since November of last year, four former affiliated individuals from Celtic Boys were convicted of child sex abuse offences. Three of the men were Gerald King, Frank Cairney and Jim McCafferty.
The fourth being… James Torbett.
In 1966, Torbett founded The Celtic Boys Club – now rebranded as St Patrick’s Sports Academy to distance themselves from the sinister past of the club. The club operates teams in age groups from under-9 to under-19 and has helped develop many future professional footballers, particularly for Celtic, with which they have historically had close links.
A club that has helped develop many professional players that have go on to play for Celtic, including Roy Aitken, Tommy Burns, Charlie Nicholas, David Moyes and Alan Brazil. Most notably Brazil, as he was one of the players that were unfortunately abused by Torbett (who was previously jailed in 1998 for 30 months for ‘shameless and indecent conduct’ towards juvenile players).
Torbett simply put, ruled CBC over the course of five decades and destroyed countless lives through lies, manipulation and abuse that is completely grotesque.
Torbett, 71, demanded players called him ‘The Big Man’. He would make young boys shower in a communal changing room while standing to face him with their hands by their sides, demonstrating his sadistic show of power.
Players were picked for selection on the basis of who had done the most to live out Torbett’s sick fantasies. Torbett targeted ‘vulnerable’ players and callously abused them. These young boys wanted nothing more than to play football, and Torbett manipulated and lied to them with false promises and this made it impossible for them to keep this monstrous man at bay.
Torbett had no one to answer to. He ran Celtic Boys Club through fear and threats. He was able to tragically ruin so many young lives and dreams.
When Torbett was jailed for six years for five offences of sexual assault last November, it, unfortunately, brought no real justice to any of his victims.
Most notably Andrew Gray and Kenny Campbell.
Gray suffered in silence for nearly 30 years, following the years of abuse he had to suffer at the hands of Torbett. Being abused dozen of times, Andrew’s life was tragically impacted in a way that was irreversible. Severe trust issues, a gambling addiction, unable to hold down a job nor form any relationships… the lies, manipulation and grief that Andrew suffered was so much that he attempted to take his own life.
Tragically, at the age of just 41, Gray became paralysed from a swimming pool accident and fell into a coma. Which he never recovered from and passed away in October 2017.
Following the revelations from former Crewe Alexander and Bury player Andy Woodward, who was at the forefront of the Barry Bennell scandal that rocked football, Woodward bravely encouraged his friend Andrew to go to the police about the abuse he suffered as a child and how it had left him suffering in silence into adulthood.
Gray was unfortunately not alone as Kenny Campbell also suffered at the pure evilness of Torbett.
Only meeting each other briefly when playing at the Celtic Boys Club in the 1980s under Torbett, Andrew and Kenny were reunited in 2016 at a Glasgow police station, when they finally had the courage to reveal to the authorities their horrible ordeals. Bottled-up for decades, the pair simply broke down after telling the police their horrific stories.
“When he saw me, he was just overwhelmed.”Kenny Campbell on seeing Andrew Gray, when revealing the abuse they suffered to the authorities
Both Gray and Campbell wanted nothing more when they were kids to become professional footballers. Being scouted by Torbett himself, they thought they were on their way to starting to fulfil their dreams. What was to come, however, was years of abuse on more than a dozen times.
Just like Gray, Campbell’s life has also been tragically altered. When being released from Celtic at the age of 19, Campbell’s ‘demons’ started to appear.
“I was addicted to cocaine and alcohol. I tried to kill myself four times and I really wanted to die, it wasn’t a cry for help. He’d [Torbett] manipulated me so well.”Kenny Campbell on his ‘demons’
Gray and Campbell were unable to say anything about their horrific ordeals for nearly thirty years – even when Torbett was first sentenced to prison in 1998 – due to multiple issues.
But when Andy Woodward finally found the courage to reveal his ‘years of hell’ at the hands of Barry Bennell, Andrew and Kenny no longer say nothing and had to come forward and reveal what happened to them both.
“I felt like I was going to burst, so I blurted it out to my sister. One of my grandsons had started playing football and I thought: ‘What if someone abuses him like Torbett abused me?’”Kenny Campbell on when he revealed the abuse he suffered from James Torbett
When Torbett was finally convicted last year, Kenny, along with Andrew’s sister Michelle and his mother Helene, cried in relief that Torbett was finally punished for the horrific crimes he committed.
The evidence from Kenny and Andrew (after his passing) was enough to convict Torbett and give some sense of true justice to everyone affected.
Kenny, Michelle and Helene now have a lifetime ‘bond’ between the three, which also includes Andrew despite being no longer alive.
“No one will ever replace Andrew but I have gained a new brother in Kenny.”Michelle Gray on Kenny Campbell
“Michelle and Helene understand what I am going through more than anyone else.”Kenny Campbell on Michelle and Helene Gray
Torbett’s lies and manipulation towards his victims’ families was so thorough that no one was unable to notice what the boys were horrifically going through.
Helene and Michelle only discovered years later following Andrew’s revelations what Torbett truly did to him.
“I hugged him and we cried together. I said, ‘I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this alone’.”Helene Gray on when she found out about what happened to her son Andrew
“It was like someone had taken the missing piece of the jigsaw and just dropped it right there. Everything fell into place.”Michelle Gray on when she found out about what happened to her brother Andrew
Torbett was found guilty of three counts of indecent assault and two counts of lewd and libidinous behaviour – towards Kenny, Andrew and a boy who can’t be named for legal reasons.
“You groomed boys and contrived situations when you could abuse them. Yours is some of the most corrupting behaviour I have ever heard of in these courts.”Judge Lord Beckett, informing James Torbett upon his sentencing
Upon the sentencing of Torbett, Kenny and Michelle/Helene have received support and kind messages on social media, which they appreciate a lot.
Campbell along with the Gray family is now taking legal action against Celtic Football Club, along with campaigning for an independent enquiry as there have been concerns with the Celtic Boys Club for over five decades.
“It’s not about money. It’s about the promise we made to Andrew as he was dying. That we’d fight to make sure no other child suffered like he and Kenny did.”Michelle Gray on the legal action against Celtic Football Club
Celtic have always denied any official partnership with Celtic Boys Club, despite it being known as being a feeder club for The Bhoys.
It’s very clear the decision to sue Celtic is not for financial gain. The decision to take legal action against the club is for getting justice for Andrew, Kenny and every other boy who suffered at the hands of Torbett, whilst making sure it never happens again.
As a society, we need to do more to make sure that the abuse Andrew, Kenny and everyone else affected by those connected to the Celtic Boys Club cannot happen again. It’s not only the abuse they suffered as children that’s the problem but also the mental health problems these men have tragically had to deal with in later life.
The monster Torbett is now in prison and could very end up staying behind bars until he passes away. All the schoolboys he coached – and abused – finally got their justice in the end. The problem, however, just like with the boys who were victims under Eddie Heath at Chelsea is that it was a case of too little, too late.
Anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse and/or is struggling with issues of mental health, please contact DEpressON. They are a mental health project founded by Colin Radcliffe and co-run by Andy Woodward. They can be contacted via Twitter or through their website at www.depresson.co.uk
Also if you know of any young person that may be the victim of sexual abuse and are unable to speak out, organisations such as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is a fantastic charity that will always strive to protect every child in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands.
Let’s hope that the ‘dark side of football’ finally fades away.