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  1. ITV Report

Victims tell of 'conveyor belt of abuse' by football coach Bob Higgins

Bob Higgins, a former youth coach at Southampton Football Club

Victims and their families have described in court a "conveyor belt of abuse" suffered at the hands of former Southampton youth football coach Bob Higgins.

In May this year, Higgins, 66, was found guilty of 46 charges of sexual abuse against 24 boys - aged between 11 and 17 - during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Bob Higgins treated me like a son, from being a slacker I was elevated to pride of my school and family because he gave me the confidence.

Bob Higgins gave me a glimpse of what my life could be, and it all came tumbling down during a soapy naked massage.

Could I really have made it? I suppose I will never know, my chance was stolen."

– Victim statement
Higgins being questioned by police

Courts were told that Higgins had abused his position of power over young players, taking advantage of them for his own sexual purposes.

Many of the victims described Higgins as God-like, a mentor and a father figure, indicating the influence he held over them. Several said they could not make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their burgeoning football career.

Bob Higgins said he loved me and would make me a star. I had a dream of being a footballer, you created a nightmare that I still live to this day.

You sexually and mentally abused me - behind a mask of affection you created a conveyor belt of abuse."

– Victim statement

Higgins will be sentenced tomorrow.

Southampton FC has issued an apology to the victims and said it has launched an investigation.