Ex-Peterborough United coach denies abusing young footballers says he treated them 'like family'

Bob Higgins
Bob Higgins
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A former Peterborough United youth coach has denied inappropriate behaviour with young footballers saying he treated them 'like family.

Bob Higgins, who ran the schoolboy coaching programmes for Southampton and Peterborough United, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of 50 counts of indecent assault against 24 complainants dating between 1971 and 1996.

The prosecution allege that the indecent assaults happened while the 65-year-old defendant gave boys a lift in his car, when they stayed at his home and during soapy massages.

Higgins told the court that he got the idea of giving the boys naked massages from a documentary he saw on television about Leeds United and England manager Don Revie.

The jury was shown a YouTube clip of the programme, The Don Revie Story, which shows players being given massages.

Higgins said that massages, given "after heavy physical training", were not normal practice at the time, and added: "We brought in health professionals to give talks to the players, dieticians, a lot of forward-thinking stuff."

Alistair MacDonald QC, defending, asked Higgins: "Was any part of the aim of giving these massages sexual pleasure on your part?"

He replied "no", and added: "I think they quite enjoyed the massages."

Higgins said that his home was used as a "hub" for parents to pick up their children after training sessions and he would give up to two boys a lift in his car.

He said that he would not be alone with a boy in the car and had not committed any impropriety.

When asked by Mr MacDonald if he listened to music to "engender an atmosphere" in the car, Higgins replied: "No".

Describing his taste in music, he said: "I love Whitney Houston, any music like that, Celine Dion, Motown. It was top of the charts at the time, that was what I listened to."

The defendant said that some of the boys would stay at his home on a "rota" organised by his wife Shirley based on the difficulties the players had with travelling to training.

Higgins said that boys would sit next to him on the sofa in his lounge while they watched television but he had not done anything inappropriate.

Mr MacDonald asked him: "Would you ever put an arm round a boy while you were sat on a sofa?", to which Higgins replied: "I probably did, yes" but added that boys would not sit on his knee.

He added: "We treated everyone like family."

Higgins said he did not have favourites among the young players and added that he thought he would be sacked if he put forward one of the schoolboys to become an apprentice if they did not merit it.

He said any boy that did not meet the gold standard required to become an apprentice would be released from the training programme.

He added: "We were trying to help them, to release them to lower clubs, we didn't abandon them."

Higgins, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies the charges and the trial continues.