FORMER Southampton youth football coach Bob Higgins today told a court there was ‘no truth whatsoever’ in the allegations of sexual abuse against him.

A court heard that football is the ‘most important thing’ in the 65-year-old’s life, ‘except for his wife’ - but he confessed he ‘couldn’t play’ the sport.

Higgins told jurors he wrote letters to football clubs such as Chelsea, Queen’s Park Rangers and Brentford, desperately trying to find a way to get a job as a scout and coach.

He went on to have a successful career in the game, being hired as Youth Development Officer by Lawrie McMenemy at Southampton.

McMenemy joined Saints as assistant manager in 1973, having just won the old Fourth Division with Grimsby Town.

He went on to become one of the club’s most successful first team managers, beating Manchester United in the 1976 FA Cup final and finishing second in the First Division in 1984.

Higgins is accused of grooming and sexually abusing 24 teenage boys over a 25 year period from 1971 to 1996.

Prosecutors told jurors at Winchester Crown Court Higgins was a ‘predatory paedophile’ who used his ‘supreme power’ to abuse young players.

Giving evidence, Higgins explained how he built his youth football empire - with training centres across London, Essex, the south of the country and even a venue in the north of England.

It was heard he began scouting and training teenage players when he was only 17 himself - working part time jobs to fund his footballing dream.

He said: “I was invited to clubs to watch training and I began my own training centre. I thought I could do it.

“Crystal Palace were affiliated with my first school. They funded it. That’s where I met Bert Head, who was first team manager.

“He recommended me to Ted Bates, who was Southampton manager, and he invited me to Southampton in about 1972 or 1973.

“I was invited to go with a team of my players and they did very well. Southampton wanted to sign two or three of my players.

“When Lawrie McMenemy took charge of the first team at Southampton after Ted Bates left, I got on well with him.

“He was very, very keen for me to continue what I was doing . He wanted me to do more scouting and coaching as well.

“It was Lawrie who hired me in the new role of Youth Development Officer at the club.”

Higgins, of Southampton, Hants, denies 50 counts of indecent assault on boys which allegedly took place over a quarter of a century.

Addressing some of the alleged abuse today, he said: “There is no truth whatsoever in the allegations.”

The trial continues tomorrow.