Footballer tells court former Posh coach 'groped him'
A top-level footballer has told a court he did not make a complaint as a teenage boy after former Peterborough United coach Bob Higgins allegedly groped him because he did not want to derail his career.
Higgins, 65, who ran the youth team coaching for Southampton Football Club and at Peterborough United, is on trial at Salisbury Crown Court accused of 50 accounts of indecent assault against 24 complainants dating between 1971 and 1996.The first footballer complainant to give evidence to the trial, who cannot be named for legal reasons but is referred to as Complainant C, said that he and other boys would go to Higgins' home after training sessions to make it easier for their parents to pick them up.In a video interview shown to the jury, he said that Higgins groped him below his shorts as they sat in the defendant's lounge with the lights off and the television on.The complainant, who went on to play for Southampton FC, said: "I think that was enough for me to make my excuses and get out of the room. I am sure I got out to the toilet and stayed in the toilet to avoid him. Alarm bells started ringing."Complainant C, who was 14 at the time, added that Higgins would sit in the lounge with "lads lying across him". He also said that Higgins would give him and the other boys massages with "soapy water" after a training camp session.He said that the defendant "touched everything", and said it was "inevitable" that he touched his private parts as he was "more thorough" than the other coaches who also gave massages.Complainant C said that he decided to come forward with his allegation against the defendant, which happened when he was aged 14, after hearing of the "courage" of one of the other alleged victims in making a complaint against him.He said that he had been in "denial" at the time because he was a "football fanatic" and did not want to jeopardise his burgeoning career.
He said: "I kind of justify it to myself as it was my opportunity, this isn't going to derail it what just happened. I was probably in a bit of denial."Complainant C described Higgins as a "good coach who got the best out of you", and added: "He was the guy who could have taken you to the next level."He said that he admitted sending Higgins thank you cards when he became an apprentice and a professional, and said he now had "mixed emotions" about the defendant.He said: "He is the man who gave me the push in the right direction. "It's difficult, to feel betrayed, a little bit of that, it's difficult emotions to work out."Adam Feest QC, prosecuting, has told the jury that Higgins is a "predatory paedophile" who carried out a "systematic campaign of sexual abuse" of teenage boys between 1971 and 1996.Higgins, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies the charges and the trial continues.