Predatory paedophile ex-football coach Bob Higgins is to be sentenced for 46 charges of indecent assault against 24 teenage boys in the UK.
The 66-year-old from Southampton was convicted of sexually abusing schoolboy players during a 25-year period following two trials.
The defendant ran the youth training programmes at Southampton and Peterborough Football Clubs and also spent a period as the Maltese national youth coach.
The trials heard that Higgins abused his “position of power” over the future careers of the young players in order to take advantage of them for his own sexual needs.
Higgins was found guilty of one count of indecent assault last year and a further 45 counts in a retrial held at Bournemouth Crown Court.
At the conclusion of the nine-week trial last month, Judge Peter Crabtree remanded Higgins into custody to be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court.
The jury heard victim after victim speak of the abuse carried out by Higgins in similar situations – during post-exercise soapy massages, in his car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with the boys on his sofa.
Many of the victims described Higgins as God-like, their mentor and their father figure showing the influence he held over them.
Several spoke of their inability to make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their burgeoning football career.
One prominent victim was former Southampton trainee Billy Seymour who waived his anonymity to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the case but who died in a car crash earlier this year without being able to witness Higgins being convicted of offences against him.
Another complainant, Greg Llewellyn, told the Press Association that the abuse had “profound results” on his fellow victims and added: “There is no doubt he had a very persuasive and controlling personality which enabled him to manipulate people for his own ends and needs.”
The court heard that Higgins was cleared at a trial held in the early 1990s of a series of indecent assaults including against former-pro Dean Radford who gave evidence as a witness in the current trial.
This acquittal meant that Higgins was allowed to return to his work where he continued his abuse of young players.
The new case against Higgins was brought after the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show exposed claims of abuse in football in November 2016.
A NSPCC helpline subsequently set-up led to 87 referrals to Hampshire police all of them naming Higgins with another 32 people contacting the force directly.
Southampton FC has issued an apology to the victims and said it had launched an investigation with Barnardo’s into the offences and added: “This review will allow us to fully understand and learn from what happened at the club in the past.”
Higgins is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of former football coaches including 64-year-old Barry Bennell who was jailed for 30 years for sexual offences against junior players at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra and George Ormond, 62, who worked for Newcastle United’s youth team who was given a 20-year prison sentence.