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Aston Villa coach steps down after ex-Ireland international's bullying allegations

The English club confirmed the news and apologised for Kevin MacDonald’s conduct in a statement today.

Kevin MacDonald has left his position as Head of Football Development.
Kevin MacDonald has left his position as Head of Football Development.
Image: EMPICS Sport.

ASTON VILLA YOUTH coach Kevin MacDonald has left the club following an investigation into bullying allegations made by a number of his former players including ex-Ireland international Gareth Farrelly.

Villa confirmed the news in a statement today, which included an apology:

“Aston Villa can confirm that Kevin MacDonald has left his position as Head of Football Development with immediate effect,” it began, and went on to explain the investigation.

The statement concluded: “Aston Villa wishes to apologise to all former players who were affected by behaviour which would not be tolerated by the club today.

“Our approach to safeguarding is now unrecognisable from the past and has been described as excellent in recent EFL and Ofsted audits.

“The club will now begin a search for his successor.”

This all came to the fore in December 2018 when long-serving coach MacDonald was suspended following claims made by Dubliner Farrelly, who joined the English outfit as a teenager in 1992.

In an interview with the Guardian, the six-time capped Ireland midfielder said that MacDonald used to relentlessly bully the boys, and explained that his father complained to the club at the time that he was “showing signs of depression because of the emotional abuse”.

“It was a culture of verbal and physical bullying,” Farrelly said.

“He would say: ‘You think you’re a fucking player? You’re not a fucking player. You’ve got fucking no chance.’ He would be calling players ‘cunts’ all the time; crazy stuff when you think about the role of responsibility he operated in.

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“In training it wasn’t unusual for people to end up squaring up to him, games would have to be stopped. It became normal. People were lucky not to have their legs broken. Every day you’d go into work, put your boots on, and think: ‘Here it comes again’. It took a huge toll.”

MacDonald, who played for Liverpool and Coventry City, was a coach at Villa for almost 23 years, but took hiatuses to act as assistant to Ireland manager Steve Staunton in 2006/2007 and a spell in charge of Swindon Town in 2013.

A previous Premier League investigation found him guilty of bullying a young Villa player in 2015 and 2016.

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Emma Duffy

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