Bob Higgins became the star-maker, the notable-coach. He labored with the likes of the previous England notable Alan Shearer, the Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier and the ex-Chelsea skipper Dennis wise when they were promising juniors, hungry for success.
He was popular – cherished is not too strong – with the aid of the impressionable schoolboys who believed he become the gatekeeper to the world of football. They have been “Bob’s boys”, hanging on his every phrase, following him around Pied Piper-like.
One former participant defined Higgins because the sheikh and the younger gamers his harem. Another stated he turned into “like God”. He groomed the men with boots, tracksuits, tickets to games – but greater than some thing via giving them the wish they might make it big.
Domestic lifestyles appeared solid, mundane. Through the years, Higgins lived in modest houses in London and Hampshire along with his wife, Shirley. She loved bingo and they preferred to holiday in Blackpool. There may be no suggestion that she knew about the sexual abuse.
But there was a far darker side to Higgins. For a quarter of a century he became given get admission to to loads of schoolboy gamers. Rankings of them have claimed he sexually abused them at the same time as on soccer camps, in his automobile as he played romantic track, at the homes he shared with Shirley. He even indecently touched boys on the training pitch at some stage in heading drills and as he confirmed them how to preserve combatants’ shirts.
Gamers who went directly to have excellent careers in soccer, remain scarred by means of the abuse four decades on. One, Billy Seymour, said he became so broken that, despite having a profession on the pinnacle of the professional recreation, he grew to become to drink and capsules due to Higgins and ended up in prison whilst he attacked a taxi driver whose eyes and scent reminded him of his former coach, explaining: “He’s inside me.”
Tragically, Seymour died in a car crash rapidly earlier than he was due to supply proof at Bournemouth crown court. Shifting videos of his testimony had been performed, watched by using his own family from the lower back of the court docket.
Some victims are nevertheless coming ahead. One, a former participant diagnosed as X, informed police only weeks earlier than the trial that Higgins had sexually assaulted him masses of times.
He instructed the jury that Higgins referred to as him “son” and advocated him to deal with him as: “dad”. While X became an apprentice at Southampton, he inscribed the again of a photograph of himself for Higgins with the message: “To my dad, from your everlasting son.”
One scene of abuse become an old navy camp at the Kent coast in which trainings camps were staged. Higgins could inform boys: “I’m going to break you and rebuild you.” Schoolboys often threw up after taking component in gruelling runs into the wind alongside the pebbly beach.
However it got worse after education. Inner, boys have been informed to lie on a bench – one known as it a butcher’s block, some other a mortuary slab. Higgins might deliver them “soapy massages”, supposedly to aid their healing, and indecently contact them.
Higgins took teams to play inside the the Gothia Cup kids event in Sweden, abusing gamers at the ferry and during the opposition. The jury was proven a photograph of a group of boys throughout one such ride. Among them was Shearer.
There may be no thought that either he or clever had been sufferers. Le Tissier did now not give evidence in court docket but he has defined being given a bare massage by using the teach.
Higgins’ vehicle became a frequent scene of abuse. He could play love songs via Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie on the stereo and inspire boys he become taking to schooling or games to relaxation their heads on his lap. He would then indecently attack them.
His mother, Leah, became a bus conductor and his father, John, a safety officer at an plane manufacturing unit.
John died in 1961 when he became 33 and his son changed into eight and boarding at a faculty in Surrey run by using Roman Catholic nuns.
After his father’s dying he back to London and played soccer for his college team. Even though he loved the sport, he knew he might in no way be accurate sufficient to play at a excessive degree so set approximately finding any other route into the sport.
A instructor who moonlighted as a scout offered encouragement and in 1970, elderly 17, Higgins changed into finding and education players for London clubs, including Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.
The sexual abuse was also beginning. Within the early 70s, Bournemouth crown court docket heard, he carried out his first indecent attack on a boy – no longer a footballer – several years his junior.
His profession blossomed. The Southampton manager, Ted Bates, requested Higgins to open a centre in Slough, Berkshire, for the south coast club. After Lawrie McMenemy took over as Southampton boss in 1973 he appointed Higgins as young people improvement officer. Higgins started to run academies throughout the UK.
He married his lengthy-time female friend, Shirley Cubbitt, in January 1974 and that they had a infant. With a flow to Southampton, Higgins regarded settled in each his private and expert existence.
His position on the membership supposed he had smooth, unchecked access to schoolboys. In courtroom it changed into stated the membership regarded him as a father determine and had no problem with boys staying at his home.
He was adroit at separating boys from their mother and father, ensuring they relied on him after which taking benefit of their vulnerability.
One participant who spoke to the parent stated he turned into “a function version, a father figure, my most important carer. He turned into this amazing-train. He had an charisma approximately him.”
In February 1989, Dave Merrington, who went on to manage the membership however changed into then in price of the apprentices, was driving gamers lower back from a sport whilst he heard them giggling approximately Higgins’ sexual proclivities. Alarmed, he flagged the difficulty to his bosses, the police were called and Higgins left Southampton.
In April 1989, as the guardian has found out, the soccer League wrote to all clubs pronouncing it turned into “antagonistic” to the Bob Higgins soccer Academy.
At approximately that time, six boys got here ahead to allege sexual abuse through Higgins. In court docket, his defence efficiently argued there must be separate trials for each complainant. After he was discovered no longer responsible at the first trial – it become his phrase in opposition to a single complainant’s – the alternative trials were dropped.
In 1995, Higgins changed into back in professional soccer as the under-16s educate at Peterborough United. There he labored with kit Carson, any other reputable youngsters educate and megastar-maker.
Carson, seventy five, died in a car crash at the January morning this year that his trial for abusing eleven boys become because of begin. At least one boy has said he turned into abused via both guys.