Former player Matt Le Tissier says he was given 'naked massage' by alleged sex abuser Bob Higgins

Le Tissier, who played for Southampton between 1986 and 2002, joins a growing list of former Saints footballers who have made allegations against the former coach during their time at the club

Samuel Lovett
Tuesday 06 December 2016 20:41 GMT
Le Tissier spent his entire professional club career with Southampton and won eight caps for the England national football team before turning to non-League football in 2002
Le Tissier spent his entire professional club career with Southampton and won eight caps for the England national football team before turning to non-League football in 2002

Ex-footballer Matt Le Tissier has claimed that he was subjected to a “naked massage” by former youth coach Bob Higgins as a player at Southampton Football Club.

Le Tissier, who played for the side between 1986 and 2002, joins a growing list of former Saints footballers who have made allegations against Mr Higgins during their time at the club.

The former England forward is the biggest name yet to come forward with allegations of wrongdoing as the ongoing abuse scandal continues to engulf the sport.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Le Tissier said: “Everyone was kind of just naked and getting thrown on this bed and [given a] very, very quick, massage.

“It was uncomfortable. I’ll be honest. It was something that I wasn’t ever used to. Growing up even at school, you were kind of shy about your body at that age and you didn’t really undress in front of other people. So, I remember feeling very uncomfortable at the time.”

Asked how he felt about it now, the 48-year-old replied: “It’s very, very wrong, for a start. 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. What went on is not normal behaviour, I think, when you hear the stories of naked soapy massages, hairy bum competitions, that kind of stuff.

“The guys back then talking about those kinds of things, you look back at it now and think, ‘Whoa. Hang on a minute. What was going on?’

“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 the people that were the perpetrators of these things, they get brought to justice. Simple as that.

Matt Le Tissier in the stands at St Mary's for Southampton's recent Premier League clash against Everton

“It’s a long time ago and just incredible that they’re able to get away with it for so long.”

Taking to social media after the interview, Le Tissier posted on Twitter: "For the record, I've never felt I've been abused. Still don't. Please don't feel sorry for me, I'm all good. Just stated what happened."

The allegations come a day after revelations emerged that the Football League had warned all its clubs about Mr Higgins in 1989.

In a letter issued to the managers of all the clubs in the Football League, the Football Association stated: “I understand that you may recently have received a letter from Mr. Bob Higgins, inviting your club to become involved with the above organisation [BHSA].

“The Football Association, Football League and English Schools’ Football Association are opposed to this organisation and I would ask all clubs which might be thinking of becoming involved to give this office the opportunity of appraising them of the situation before taking any steps in this direction.”

Mr Higgins worked at Southampton throughout the 1980s and was cleared of sexual offences against boys in 1992 before going on to join Peterborough in the mid-1990s.

It’s understood that at least six players have now approached Hampshire Police with allegations against the coach.

The 57-year-old has denied all claims made against him.

Le Tissier in action for Southampton against Manchester United during a Premiership match between the two sides in 1996

Despite being named in connection with historical child sex abuse, it recently emerged that Mr Higgins was still at work within the sport as a coach at Fleet Town. The club have since said he is no longer part of their set-up.

Southampton are now one of 55 clubs understood to be looking into historical allegations of child abuse.

QPR became the latest club to reveal they are acting upon abuse allegations after a player came forward with claims against one-time scout Chris Gieler.

The club are taking the matter “very seriously” and a spokesperson added: “Any form of abuse has no place in football or society. QPR has robust recruitment procedures and safeguarding policies in place to ensure the protection and welfare of both children and vulnerable adults, and we employ a full-time designated safeguarding manager who works across all areas of the club with specific responsibility to the Academy and Community Trust.

“In line with FA, Premier League and Football League guidelines, we have had someone responsible for safeguarding in place since 2011.

“As a club, we work closely with the police, local authorities and safeguarding agencies and comply with all best practice and legislation to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable people who come into contact with the club.”

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