Former youth football coach Bob Higgins is on trial accused of carrying out a 25-year campaign of sexual abuse against boys as young as 11
The prosecution at Bournemouth crown court claim that Higgins was a “predatory paedophile” who used his power as one of the sport’s “kingmakers” to carry out his long campaign of child sexual abuse.
One former youth footballer told the jury that the ex-Southampton FC coach, sexually assaulted him hundreds of times starting when he was only 13 years old.
The Guardian reports: The player, who can only be identified as complainant X, said he feared that if he resisted, his chances of becoming a professional would be ruined and he was too embarrassed to confide to anyone what was happening.
He told the jury that Higgins called him “son” and encouraged him to address him as: “Dad”. When the former player, who is now in his 50s, became an apprentice at Southampton, X inscribed the back of a picture of himself for Higgins with the message: “To my dad, from your everlasting son.”
X also told the jury that other boys were encouraged to sit on Higgins’ lap and named the former Chelsea and England star Dennis Wise as one of these. There is no suggestion that Wise is a victim and he is not a complainant in the case.
The prosecution at Bournemouth crown court has claimed that Higgins, 66, was a “predatory paedophile” who used his power as one of the sport’s “kingmakers” to carry out a 25-year campaign of sexual abuse against boys as young as 11.
Higgins, 66, who also worked at Peterborough United and for the Maltese FA, as well as running his own football academy, denies 51 counts of indecent assault against 24 boys between the early 1970s and mid-1990s. The alleged assaults are said to have taken place in a variety of settings including training camps, Higgins’ home and his car.
The jury has been told that the current proceedings are a retrial. Complainant X was a witness in last summer’s trial but said he he had felt too embarrassed to reveal what had allegedly happened to him then. He became emotional in the witness box when he explained that he had also feared his children could suffer if what he allegedly went through became public.
But after giving evidence at last year’s trial, he decided that if anyone asked him again what had happened to him, he would reveal all.
X told the court that he was spotted by Higgins aged 13. He went on to sign professionally for Southampton when he was 18, and after his release had a career in non-league football.
While a youth player at Southampton, he told the court, he was “very, very close” to Higgins. “He wanted me to be around him,” he said.
X said that shortly before he turned 14 Higgins took him on a trip to Sweden and on the voyage home touched him intimately. “I was in shock,” he said. Asked how long the incident had taken, he said: “It seemed like two years. I think it was about two minutes.”
Over the next two years, X alleged the abuse escalated. He said he would stay at Higgins’ home. When his wife, Shirley, went to bed, they would touch themselves intimately in front of each other. X said this progressed to touching each other and then on to oral sex. Finally Higgins performed another sex act on him, X claimed.
“I was in his power,” said X. “I had been caught up in something I couldn’t go back on … I wanted to please him. As a young lad, I was thinking about a career in football … It was a fear thing.” He said there were hundreds of sexual contacts. “It would make me feel angry at times,” he said.
Asked why he called Higgins “dad” on the back of the picture, X said: “He was always calling me his son. One day he made the suggestion: ‘Why don’t you call me ‘Dad’?’ It was a strange thing to say.”
The trial continues.