“Paedophile” football coach Bob Higgins was able to continue training teenage boys for two decades despite concerns being raised about his behaviour towards the young players, a court has heard.
The 65-year-old defendant, who ran the youth team coaching for Southampton Football Club and Peterborough United, is on trial at Salisbury Crown Court accused of 50 counts of indecent assault against 24 complainants dating between 1971 and 1996.
Adam Feest QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Dean Radford, who started playing for Southampton at the age of 14 and who went on to play for the team professionally, made accusations against Higgins in the mid-1980s to senior figure at the club, David Merrington.
Mr Feest said: “Prompted by all of this, Mr Merrington spoke with the defendant, pointing out that he might be getting too close to some of the boys and telling him some of the various indecent comments that were being made.
“The defendant’s reaction then was to protest his innocence, saying that he would sue anyone who made allegations against him.”
Mr Feest said the defendant placed his resignation with the club in April 1985 but did not actually leave because of a change in management and he stayed until March 1989.
Mr Feest said Mr Radford went on to make a formal complaint to police and his allegations prompted others to come forward.
He said Mr Radford claimed the defendant abused him when he was suffering a bad back.
Mr Feest said that in another incident, Mr Radford claimed the defendant behaved inappropriately to him when he stayed at his home.
He said: “He was asked by the defendant’s wife Shirley to go into the main bedroom. When he did so, he found the defendant laying in the bed.
“He asked Dean to sit down, told him that he loved him and pulled his head down as if to kiss him.
“Dean hesitated and was able to resist to the extent that he kissed only the defendant’s forehead. He then left the room.”
On another occasion, Higgins forced Mr Radford to put his hand in the defendant’s trousers.
The case relating to Mr Radford’s claims reached trial in the early 1990s but the defendant was found not guilty and the allegations from the other complainants were subsequently dropped, the court heard.
Mr Feest explained to the jury that Mr Radford’s account of abuse was not subject to a charge in the current trial because of the law of double jeopardy.
He added: “Such evidence assists in not only putting into context and giving a better understanding of the allegations made by other complainants but also shows the propensity which this defendant has for committing sexual offences against young boys.”
The court has heard that after leaving Southampton, Higgins went on to work as the under 16 youth manager at Peterborough United where further complaints of abuse have been made against him.
Higgins denies the charges and the trial continues.