A FORMER youth football coach has been found guilty of sexually abusing young soccer players.

At Bolton Crown Court 75-year-old Michael Coleman appeared emotionless as he stood in the dock while a jury convicted him of three counts of indecently assaulting boys in the early 1980s.

Coleman, who managed Westhoughton Leisure Centre, ran numerous youth football teams and in the early 1980s he was coach of a Daisy Hill team.

During a five day trial the court heard how he abused two of the players when they were aged 12 or 13.

On one occasion Coleman, who would shower naked with the team, was alone in the changing rooms at the sports centre with one of the boys.

The coach sat next to the boy as he got dried and began performing a sex act on himself under a towel before grabbing hold of his victim's head and pushing it down into his groin.

"It has ruined my life over the years," the victim told the jury.

He added that he kept quiet about the abuse because he did not think he would be believed, but finally picked up the courage to go to police after recent national publicity about abuse in youth football.

"I had more confidence to do it because police were taking it seriously. I don't think they did back in the day," he said.

Police contacted other players as part of their investigation and another victim came forward.

He was playing for Coleman's team when he suffered a leg muscle injury and Coleman offered to give him physiotherapy.

On at least three occasions Coleman took him into a storeroom at the sports centre, rubbed a linament into his leg and then slid his hands under the boy's shorts and onto his genitals.

"It didn't feel right. He had sweat dripping off him," the former player told the jury.

"It was like he was getting off doing that. I was a child. I didn't understand what he was doing."

The witness also told how Coleman, of Glaister Lane, Breightmet, would "insist" on the boys stripping naked and having a shower at the sports centre where he would show them how to wash themselves.

Following the verdict the judge Recorder Rowena Goode warned Coleman that he faces an lengthy prison term when he is sentenced on July 20.

Granting him bail in the meantime she told him: "You must understand that it is inevitable that there is an immediate custodial sentence for these offences.

"Because of your age and circumstances I will grant you bail until sentence."

In the meantime the probation service will prepare a pre-sentence report upon Coleman, including details of his medical condition and his victims will be invited to write statements outlining the impact Coleman's crimes have had upon them.

Following the verdict a spokesman for the NSPCC said: “Coleman took advantage of the trust placed in him by young footballers and their families, carrying out appalling abuse without any thought for the grave impact it would have on his victims.

“Coleman has eventually faced justice for his past crimes but at the NSPCC we want to make sure everyone who currently works with children can be trusted to do so.

"That’s why we’re calling on the Government to better protect children by ensuring that everyone who works with them undergoes the most stringent DBS checks.”