Le Tissier had ‘very wrong’ naked massage by coach

Matthew Le Tissier. PHOTO/COURTESY
Matthew Le Tissier. PHOTO/COURTESY

Ex-England star Matthew Le Tissier became the highest profile former footballer to allege inappropriate behaviour involving children, saying he received “a really disgusting” naked massage from a former Southampton youth coach.

Le Tissier, a Southampton legend and one of the most naturally talented footballers of his generation winning 21 England caps, broke his silence saying he was given a massage as a youth player in which “everyone was kind of naked” and said Bob Higgins’s behaviour had made him feel uncomfortable.

“It’s very, very wrong,” the 48-year-old Le Tissier told the BBC, as English football reels from a series of allegations of sexual abuse of youth players at the hands of their coaches, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.

“You kind of look back and think that it was wrong but, as a young boy, you kind of saw everybody else doing it and you thought, ‘Oh right. Is this normal?’

“Looking back, it’s really disgusting, I think.”

Le Tissier said he hoped the courage shown by several former footballers who have gone public in recent weeks with the abuse they suffered will result in justice being served.

“I’d like to think that the bravery of the boys that have come out will encourage everyone else that experienced those kinds of things and that the people that were the perpetrators of these things, they get brought to justice.”

Higgins, who has denied any wrongdoing, was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in 1992 and was linked to abuse again in a 1997 television documentary while the Football League, police and social services had warned as early as 1989 that he could be a danger to children.

He has in the past week been accused by several former Southampton players and the club’s former manager Harry Redknapp, who was not in charge at the time Higgins was there, criticised the Football Association (FA) for not banning him from football.

The FA has launched an internal review into whether the organisation was aware at the time of the abuse allegations now rocking English football.

Chairman Greg Clarke says it is the biggest crisis he can remember for the FA.

Twenty police forces are holding their own investigations after being contacted by former players and a source told The Observer at the weekend the allegations concern 55 professional and non-league clubs.

One of those forces, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said on Wednesday they had arrested 71-year-old Jim McCafferty, who worked as kitman for Scottish giants Celtic and also West Lothian in the 1980s.

Police said he gave himself up just days after he told the Irish Mirror he had abused young boys over a 20-year period and was talking to the paper because he wished to “cleanse his soul”.

– Claims –

The BBC reported the FA are to interview Dario Gradi over claims in 1974 that the-then Chelsea assistant manager persuaded a youth player and his parents not to take allegations of sexual abuse by chief scout and serial abuser Eddie Heath further.

Gradi was football director at Crewe Alexandra and was manager there from 1983 to 2007, overlapping the time when Barry Bennell was youth coach there.

Bennell, jailed three times for sex abuse, was charged with eight sexual offences last week.

Gradi, one of the most respected figures in English football in terms of nurturing youth talent, says he did nothing wrong and knew nothing until 1994, and then co-operated fully with the authorities.

In other developments The Daily Telegraph reported the late Chris Gieler has been accused of abuse of apprentices and schoolboys at London club Queens Park Rangers over three decades when he was their youth development officer.

Athletics too came into the spotlight as former aspiring athlete Roy Messenger, 55, told the newspaper that he had been raped 50 times between the ages of nine and 12 by the man known as Oxford’s “Mr Athletics” Aubrey Harris, including at the track where Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier for the mile.

Harris died in the 1980s.


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