A children's home worker accused of sexually assaulting boys in his care used his connections with Manchester United to "buy a form of silence" from his victims, a court has heard.
Bruce McLean, 62, was friends with footballers and, while working as a care worker in the 1970s and 1980s, would take his alleged victims to the Manchester United training ground, a jury at Chester Crown Court was told.
The former fireman, of Runcorn Road, Moore, Cheshire, denies 33 offences of indecent assault, buggery and attempted buggery against eight boys aged seven to 14 between 1974 and 1991.
Anne Whyte QC, prosecuting, said the alleged abuse happened when McLean worked at the Taxal Edge Children's Home in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, from 1975 to 1978 and then at Kilrie Children's Home in Knutsford, Cheshire, from 1979.
She said McLean, who was convicted of 10 counts of indecent assault in 1997 following an investigation into Kilrie, was liked and trusted by the "impressionable young children" in his care.
She told the jury one complainant recalled the defendant's close connections with Manchester United.
She said: "McLean, he says, would take the boys to the Cliff training ground and to visit a factory where he got sportswear to give to some of the pupils.
"Looking back now, he feels as though these treats and gifts were cynically designed to buy a form of silence from those he abused."
The court heard one alleged victim described being abused in McLean's accommodation after being taken to watch a training session.
She added: "If you decide at the end of the case that is the sort of conduct Mr McLean indulged in you are entitled to conclude that he was, as we would now say, grooming the children - earning their admiration and affection so that they more readily tolerated the abuse that he would impose upon them, so they were less likely to report him and were likely to have very mixed feelings about him."
One complainant broke down as he gave evidence of being abused in McLean's car and in his accommodation at Taxal Edge.
He told the jury: "I was a child, you know, I looked up to him."
The court heard McLean was in a position of trust for the vulnerable children at the homes.
Ms Whyte said: "This case is about the sexual mistreatment of children by a man tasked with protecting them."
She said McLean was aware of the positions the boys were in, and in one case told a victim whatever was happening to him at the home was "better than what would happen at home at the hands of his stepdad".
Another complainant described being taken in McLean's car to the grounds of a large house in Nantwich where he was abused and warned if he said anything he could end up "like another boy buried in the grounds".
Ms Whyte said one man who was allegedly assaulted by McLean said the abuse stopped after he told the man in charge of Taxal Edge, David Jones.
The court heard McLean maintained he was innocent of the 10 offences he was convicted of in 1997 and denied ever being attracted to children.
The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.