I was brainwashed by alleged paedophile coach, ex-footballer tells court
A former footballer has told a court he was "brainwashed" by alleged paedophile coach Bob Higgins because he was afraid of losing the chance of becoming a professional player.
The 65-year-old defendant, who ran the youth team coaching 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.
One of the alleged victims, referred to as Complainant V, told the court that Higgins would stroke him while giving him lifts in his car to training for Peterborough United and also indecently assaulted him at the defendant's home.
Complainant V said that he had become "best friends" with the defendant, who had told him he was "one of five special people" in his life.
He added: "He was my role model, like a father figure, my main support and carer."
He said that Higgins would visit him and other players at the accommodation where they were staying, where he would "cuddle" him and another player.
He said: "Part of me felt special, part of me felt that something wasn't right and knew it wasn't right but it wasn't just me so I didn't feel so bad, it was getting me closer to where I needed to be, the prize, the professional contract."
Complainant V said he began to become uncomfortable with the defendant's behaviour towards him but did not ask him to stop because he was afraid of losing the chance to become a professional player.
He said: "He told me that without him I wouldn't make it as a professional footballer but with him I would go on to play for England."
When asked why he allowed the contact to continue, he said: "Because I wasn't strong enough to say no because I feared what would happen if I stood up to Mr Higgins, I feared I would then be kicked out of the football club and that was it."
Complainant V said that after he finished being coached by Higgins, he was approached by the media about the defendant but said he did not wish to comment.
He said: "I was sort of brainwashed at that point, I wouldn't hear a word said against Bob."
Complainant V said as an adult his view had changed of the defendant, and added: "I thought he was a man who had abused his position of power, a man who had manipulated me as a boy, a man who had not been a positive role model to me in the transition from a boy to a man.
"The longer I was apart from him, I came out from his spell."
The trial has heard that Higgins had been acquitted at trial of sexual assault allegations made during his time at Southampton.
Complainant V said: "He said that the only thing he did was love those boys."
Higgins, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies the charges and the trial continues.