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Football boss Willie Kirk sacked for sleeping with a player insists ‘I’m not a criminal’ as he breaks silence

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WILLIE KIRK says he “hasn’t committed a crime” after being sacked by Leicester City for sleeping with a player.

The Foxes axed the Scot as boss of the Women’s Super League side six weeks ago after he was initially suspended for the relationship.

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Willie Kirk has opened up on his explosive exit from Leicester City[/caption]

Now Kirk, 45, has opened up on the controversy to try and set the record straight.

He told the Daily Mail: “There’s a number of things I need to get off my chest.

“First of all, me and my wife have been separated for over a year.

“I think people just now are going ‘he’s a bad coach, he’s a bad husband, he’s a bad human.’”

Kirk arrived at Leicester in July 2022 as director of football as he replaced Lydia Bedford as manager that November before taking up that position permanently.

They were on a six-match pointless run when he took charge but he helped them to beat the drop and guided them to a tenth place finish – but it was in the months after this that the romance began.

He said: “One of the players contacted me away from work to express their feelings for me.

“I said ‘that is ridiculous’ and just shut it down. That was that.

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“I kept shutting it down and said ‘it’s never going to happen, there’s a code of conduct.’”

However, things then changed when the player suffered an injury last year.

Kirk said: “I think this is what justified it to us.

“She picked up an injury at the tail end of the calendar year and was doing her rehab away from the training ground.

“Just before Christmas, I agreed to meet on a personal level. She was injured so it wasn’t going to stop me doing my job because she couldn’t be selected.

“Obviously I was trying to justify it to myself, which never made it right. After Christmas we started seeing each other once a week, so she’d come here, or the week after I’d go to hers.”

Kirk and his partner were then discovered by an employee of another club during a trip to Milan in February.

He said: “When we came back, we said ‘I think this has gone too far, we need to knock this on the head until the end of the season and either I’ll leave the club or you’ll leave the club.’

“We had agreed we were taking too much of a risk.”

The discovery of the relationship led to the club hauling in Kirk.

He said: “I got pulled into a meeting saying there had been a complaint made about me and the club lawyer would be in touch and the external lawyers would arrange an investigation.

“Ten days came and went. We were building up to the FA Cup game against Liverpool.

“Fifteen minutes before the last training session on the Friday, I got pulled into the office by the women’s director and the internal lawyer was there and I just knew what it was.

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“They said we need you to be honest with us ‘are you in a relationship with a player? We know all about it, we know you’ve been to Italy, we know it started just before Christmas.’”

Kirk admitted to the relationship, and after an investigation that lasted three weeks, Leicester sacked him for gross misconduct.

The player still remains at the club while Kirk unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

He says: “From admitting it, I was treated and felt like a criminal.

“I feel the club could have dealt with it better. I felt there was a lack of consistency with previous investigations.

“It’s on me, it’s my fault, I should never have gone through with anything. There is a code of conduct, I was involved with putting it in place, I was certainly involved with living by it on a day-to-day basis and trying to drive our standards, so it is absolutely ridiculous that I’m the one that’s broken it.

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Kirk says he feels let down by the club after he was axed[/caption]

“I think the way it was dealt with created a lot of uncertainty and rumours and counter-rumours.

“I don’t think that helped the players or the staff and I think we’re now seeing that in results. They got through the Liverpool game but they’ve picked up two draws in the last seven games.

“As difficult as it would have been, I felt I was due an audience with the staff and the players to explain myself and apologise face-to-face and to give my side of the story.

“It might not have kept me there, but we’ll never know.”

Kirk added: ‘It’s been frustrating. Wrongly, I think a lot of that frustration has turned into hate. I’ve hated myself. I hated the club. I’ve had moments where I have resented the relationship even though the relationship is still going on.

“This wasn’t a manager exerting their power who said ‘jump into bed with me and I’ll play you in the starting XI.’

“I’ve just carried this hate, which is wrong, but it’s come from this frustration of not being able to speak about it.

“I’m not a criminal, I’ve not committed a crime. I’ve jeopardised an environment and that is a pretty big thing.

“The club made mistakes in the past, I came in, turned around a points gap that had never been turned around before, retained WSL status.

“Now I’ve made a mistake and they don’t want anything to do with me. I felt let down by the club in terms of that.”

Kirk started his managerial career in Scotland at Hibernian.

After a brief spell with Scottish non-league Preston Athletic’s men’s side, he then entered management in the WSL.

He enjoyed three years in charge of Bristol City but left to sign for Manchester United as Casey Stoney’s assistant.

However, he did not stay long with the Red Devils as just six months later he was off to become boss of Everton in December 2018.

He was sacked after recording just two wins from their opening five games of the 2021/22 season.

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Jennifer Foster has since taken over as interim coach at Leicester[/caption]
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