Ex-pro footballer Billy Seymour has told a court how “paedophile” coach Bob Higgins broke down in tears, got down on his knees and told him that he loved him in a bid to stop him leaving his training squad.
The 65-year-old defendant, who ran the youth team coaching for Southampton and Peterborough United, is on trial at Salisbury Crown Court accused of 50 accounts of indecent assault against 24 complainants dating between 1971 and 1996.
Mr Seymour, who went on to play for Coventry City and Millwall, said the abuse by the defendant started when he was aged 13.
He said Higgins would grope him and get him to lie with his head in the defendant’s lap during car journeys while playing love songs, including Whitney Houston, on the stereo.
He added: “I could just see him looking at me, singing to me, winking to me.”
Mr Seymour said he received preferential treatment from the defendant as “it was clear I was his blue-eyed boy”.
Mr Seymour said the first time he stayed at the defendant’s house overnight for training sessions, Higgins put his arm around him and told him that “he could make my life fantastic in footballing terms” which caused him to go “off to the bathroom feeling sick.”
He said the defendant would have “cuddling sandwiches” with boys on his settee and added: “He would ask me to get into bed, he was naked, he would ask me to get behind him and cuddle him.
“I wouldn’t say I fell in love with him but I had a lot of love for him at the time, I thought the world of him.
“I just thought this was normal.”
He described how after an incident in the defendant’s bed, he ran from the house to a phone box and called his parents by reverse charge to ask them to pick him up.
He said: “I felt like my head was going to explode, like I was going to puke, vomit.
“My head was pounding, I was sweating, I just had to run out of the house, I was frightened, scared, I was panic-stricken, it was blind panic, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to run.”
Mr Seymour said that after he told the defendant he would be leaving Southampton as he had gained a place at the Football Association’s School of Excellence at Lilleshall, Higgins became emotional and angry towards him.
He said: “He was grilling me about not going to Lilleshall, he said ‘I love you’ and he actually got down on his knees and I ran away from him.
“It was just a horrible horrible thing to see him break down and cry, a grown man on his knees.”
He said Higgins was angry to him afterwards and made abusive phone calls, saying “You are going to regret this for the rest of your life.”
Higgins, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies the charges and the trial continues.