TAKEN under Bob Higgins’ wing youngsters and their families had no reason but to trust the renowned youth coach.
But now tough questions are being asked of Southampton Football Club and the FA – who knew what, and when?
Victim Lee Smith said he was not happy with Southampton’s initial response to the scandal and their statement of ‘deep regret’ issued on Thursday.
He said: ‘They could have sent out a letter saying “we will investigate”. They’re an institution, a club. They have got to take responsibility.’
He added: ‘The first thing I want is an apology.’
And the FA has come under fire after it emerged Higgins was still involved in football up until 2016 – when the latest allegations came out that led to his convictions.
Higgins had left Southampton in 1989 when ex-manager Dave Merrington overheard boys talking about the abuse and raised the alarm with the club and police. Two months later in April the Football League wrote to clubs saying it ‘opposed’ the Bob Higgins Football Academy.
The youth coach was cleared of child sexual abuse in 1992 at the direction of a judge.
There is an independent review being carried out.
Manchester City set up a compensation scheme for victims of Barry Bennell.
Southampton is now facing legal action from other victims.
Sport select committee chairman Damian Collins MP told The Daily Telegraph: ‘Southampton should look at the example of Manchester City.’
A Southampton statement said: ‘The club offers our sympathy and support to any player who suffered any kind of abuse or harm while under our care.’
Call Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service’s men’s helpline on (023) 9266 9516 or the office on (023) 9266 9513.