FORMER football coach Barry Bennell was a "predatory and determined" paedophile who engaged in systematic abuse of young boys, a court has heard.

The 63-year-old appeared at Liverpool Crown Court via video-link on Tuesday, accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court that the ex-Crewe Alexandra coach, who has since changed his name to Richard Jones, worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire in the late 1970s and into the 1990s.

Mr Johnson said: "As such, he had pretty much unfettered access to large numbers of young lads who dreamt of a life in professional football.

"Although it seems that Mr Jones, or Mr Bennell, was a skilled and relatively successful coach, we allege that he had a much darker side.

"He was also, we say, a predatory and determined paedophile: his particular predilection was pre-pubescent boys".

Barry Bennell

Mr Johnson said some of the abuse took place at the ground of Crewe Alexandra and when the football club was on tour, while many of the incidents also took place at his home addresses.

Mr Johnson said one alleged victim, who says he was abused more than 100 times, met Mr Bennell when he was a scout for Manchester City.

The complainant would stay at Mr Bennell's house with other youngsters."Not only was there the promise of high quality football, but they were given lots of sports kit and allowed to eat takeaway food," Mr Johnson told the jury.

The court heard how Mr Bennell would "play fight" with the boys and play a game with them called Follow Me, where they would copy his actions while he would increase degrees of intimacy to gauge how compliant the boys would be to abuse.

The complainant said Mr Bennell would turn the lights off and play music to mask the sounds of the abuse, the jury heard.

Mr Bennell is on trial for 35 counts of indecent assault, 11 serious sexual assaults and two counts of attempted sexual assault, on boys aged between eight and 14.

He appeared via video-link on the second day of his trial. The jury was told this was due to an illness that required him to be fed through a tube.

Mr Johnson told jurors they would have to decide in evidence whether they were listening to a group of men who, as Bennell alleges, had "jumped on the bandwagon" and maliciously made up stories, or if they agreed with the Crown's case that a devious paedophile was committing serious sexual offences on a large scale and over a long period of time against "very vulnerable lads".

Before the trial, Mr Bennell had admitted seven charges of indecent assault that happened between 1981 and 1991, relating to three victims when they were aged between 11 and 14.

The trial continues.