Former youth football coach Bob Higgins today denied 65 child sex offences against 23 boys under the age of 17.
The 64-year-old, who was the housing manager for Two Saints, which helps homeless people across the Portsmouth area, will stand trial on the alleged offences.
They are said to refer to indecent assaults or attempted indecent assaults against boys predominantly ‘within the footballing community’.
The ex-Southampton FC coach, who today arrived at Southampton Magistrates’ Court wearing a black woolly hat covering his eyes, gave his name and address in the short four minute hearing.
He also indicated he would deny all the charges against him – and was told this would be his accepted plea as the case could be heard either in a magistrates court, or a crown court.
Dan O’Neill, prosecuting, said: ‘These matters are not suitable for summary trial.
‘They are substantial offences spanning three decades. It’s my respectful submission the appropriate venue is the crown court.’
Higgins faces 63 counts of indecent assaults against 23 teenage boys, and a further two counts of attempting to indecently assault one of them between 1979 and 1983.
All the alleged offences are said to have taken place over a 26-year period between 1970 and 1996.
Chairman of the bench Alan Foster told him: ‘You have pleaded not guilty to these offences.
‘You will go to be tried at Winchester Crown Court. The first hearing is on August 16.
Higgins, from Southampton, was part of the youth system at Southampton FC in the 1980s and was youth team manager at Peterborough United from May 1995 to April 1996.
Bespectacled Higgins was still working in football, with adults at Fleet Town, when the police investigation into his actions first started last year. He has always strenuously denied all allegations made against him.
Several police forces in the UK launched wide-ranging investigations into sexual abuse in football in November and a dedicated NSPCC helpline for football received 860 calls in its first week.
Higgins will appear before a crown court judge on August 16.