Former Newcastle youngster Ross Gardner has revealed that the club totally ignored his bullying complaints against Peter Beardsley in 2003 – an ordeal that did more than just destroy his career in football.
Before anyone suggests Gardner is simply a former hopeful who just wasn’t good enough at the time and took those frustrations out on Beardsley, this was a player who had captained an England Under-17 side that included Wayne Rooney – not to mention he made these ‘bullying’ claims back when he had already earned a professional contract on Tyneside.
He had no reason to make false accusations about Beardsley, yet his complaints were ignored – and his career and mental health appears to have suffered hugely as a result.
Here’s what Gardner – now 34 – has had to say in a fascinating but infuriating interview with the Mail’s Craig Hope:
‘When the new allegations broke last year I thought, “I knew this day would come”. I just couldn’t believe it had taken so long,’
‘But I was angry. It was happening again — same club, same man. I hated the thought of another young player going through what I did, to feel as low, as helpless and alone.
‘Players should be in an environment where you can develop and realise your potential. That will never happen as long as Peter Beardsley is a coach.
‘I was the first to say something but I was speaking out against a club legend, it was intimidating, I didn’t have the support of the club. I believe it was swept under the carpet.
‘The wider public dismissed us as bad apples. Him finally leaving feels like a little bit of vindication. It’s just staggering it has taken 16 years. I’ve no doubt many players suffered in that time.’
Gardner then revealed exactly what Beardsley was like, recalling his ‘snide’ and ‘humiliating’ comments behind his back, along with his attempt to ‘punish’ him upon his return from international duty:
‘When I first met him I was like, “Wow, this is great, he’s my hero”. But that changed very quickly. We’d won the league the year before and I was England Under-17s captain, but it was as if he didn’t like the success we’d had. He warned us things would change. It seemed vindictive.
‘With me, it was the snide comments and humiliation. He’d say things behind your back, it was horrible hearing that from my mates. You think, “Why? I’m 17, he’s supposed to be helping me”.
‘I’d return from England and have to play in Under-15 trial matches. It felt like punishment for being away with my country, something which made me so proud — why did I have to be brought back down?
‘It was just a drip-feed, day on day. A lot of us felt the same. One day he’d be saying you’re great, the next you’re being dragged into a room and told you’ve been a joke in training. You’re just thinking, “What on earth?”. I didn’t want to be around him, it made me anxious and uncomfortable, I wasn’t even bothered about football come the end.
‘I’d come home and go straight to my room. I didn’t want to speak to my mam and dad. They kept asking, “What’s wrong?”. All I could say was, “It’s him, he doesn’t stop with me”.
‘It was even harder because I didn’t know why. My relationship with my parents declined and that took a long time to heal.’
‘What happened at Newcastle was life-changing. I told my dad, “I either leave or stop playing, I can’t go on with him”.
‘My career was on a steady decline after that tribunal, I was half the player. It felt so unjust, and that eats away at you. I never recovered.’
‘I left my family and it killed me. I had deteriorated mentally more than technically, I just could not get away from the fact my dream was shattered.’
What’s without doubt the most harrowing part of this story is what comes next, with Gardner revealing how the whole ordeal led to a gambling addiction and severe mental health issues:
” It led me into gambling. It was escapism.’
‘When you become an addict it’s like an insanity. It was my poison, my drug, everything felt better when I gambled. I hit rock bottom. I lost my relationship with my partner and little girl.
‘Thankfully, we’re back together as a family now. I’ve worked hard, the tools given to me during my rehab help me survive each day.
‘But I did think about suicide, it’s there, it’s real. I was lucky, I survived. I went to Sporting Chance in 2017 and it saved me.
‘We talked about the experience with Peter Beardsley as a contributing factor. It wasn’t the only thing, but that was the one which did not have to happen. Where was the safeguarding?
‘That is why this cannot happen again, he cannot be allowed to coach young players. That’s why I’m speaking out.
‘I wish I didn’t have to, but Newcastle, the FA, the Premier League, it feels like they have ignored me.
‘For me, while Peter Beardsley “looks forward to the future”, as his statement said, I look forward to my 48th rehabilitation session and the positives that I’m finally back in control of my life.
‘I look forward to the young boys at Newcastle fulfilling their potential in a positive environment. The results have improved enormously since he left. I’ll let others judge why that is.’
People will say ‘why is he only doing an interview on this now’, but why would have have spoke out all those years ago when his own club refused to believe his story? Now Beardsley has been sacked – coupled with the fact a whole host of players and parents have made several complaints – he clearly feels able to.
In light of this – and the fact the FA are now conducting a formal investigation – it’s about time the minority of fans blinded by his ‘club legend’ status calling these youngsters ‘snowflakes’.
The fact that the club ignored Gardners complaints all these years ago is nothing short of an absolute disgrace – especially when you consider how it’s gone on to impact both him and several other young players no doubt.
The club’s ignorant handling of this situation appears to have been appalling for over 15 years now and, as for Beardsley himself, I say good riddance.
It seems his sacking came 15 years too late. Let’s hope he gets his comeuppance if the FA’s investigation shows he’s guilty.