Viewers were ‘heartbroken’ over the ‘harrowing’ scenes in BBC Two drama Floodlights, which follows the story of former footballer Andy Woodward (played by Gerard Kearns) who was sexually abused by youth coach Barry Bennell (Jonas Armstrong).
The feature-length film, made with Andy’s co-operation, told how in 2016 the sports star revealed he had been abused while playing at Crewe, prompting a string of other players to come forward and the FA to launch a review.
In February 2018, Barry was sentenced to 31 years in prison in Britain for repeatedly abusing 12 boys aged eight to 15 between 1979 and 1991, with a judge describing him as ‘the devil incarnate’.
The 80-minute drama follows Andy from a boy with a passion for football to his successful professional career, as it reveals he is no longer able to ignore the haunting memories of the abuse he was subjected to.
In traumatic scenes retold in the BBC Two drama, Andy eventually confronted Barry in prison, sharing how his career was damaged by Barry’s actions.
The film follows how Barry groomed multiple young players and their families, promising he would make their dreams come true and turn them into ‘stars’ while subjecting them to horrific abuse.
Floodlights depicts Andy’s life (played by Gerard Kearns, left) from a young boy to a professional footballer (Picture: Getty)
Watching the BBC Two drama, many viewers took to social media to share their praise over Andy’s bravery in coming forward, calling the now-48-year-old a ‘hero’.
’34 years in prison is nowhere near enough for what Bennell did. Andy Woodward is a hero for speaking out and encouraging over 100 others to do so,’ one person wrote.
Another penned: ‘The emotional pain that Andy Woodward went through is just unimaginable. What a brave man who opened up the pathway for so many more to come forward. If ever anyone deserved a knighthood, it’s him.’
Other viewers commented on how heart-breaking and harrowing the drama was, with one writing: ‘Compelling and altogether heart-breaking. A lad’s dreams weaponised by a monster.
Jonas Armstrong played Barry, who is currently serving a 34-year sentence (Pictures: BBC/PA)
‘A dream that so many of us had and that kids around the world have every day. Andy Woodward’s bravery helped ensure that our kids don’t see their dreams turn to nightmares.’
Another shared: ‘#Floodlights was a real harrowing watch. The torment & torture that Woodward endured was horrific. Thank heavens that that monster is off the streets.’
Speaking about the drama, Andy had stated: ‘Since speaking out in 2016, I wanted to continue to encourage people to talk without fear to make a change.
‘Floodlights tells my story, which no child should ever have to go through. I hope this film helps to stop abuse in football and in all areas of life.’
Floodlights is available to watch on BBCiPlayer.