A FORMER Celtic youth coach will appear in a Belfast court this week charged with sexual activity with a child.

Jim McCafferty, aged 71, also worked with other Scottish clubs including Falkirk and Hibernian. The offences are all alleged to have been committed in Northern Ireland between December 2011 and December 2014.

McCafferty handed himself in to police in Northern Ireland after giving a ‘confession’ to a tabloid newspaper about his years as a paedophile. He claimed that there were so many instances that he can’t remember them all.

He spoke of a 20-year campaign of abuse in Scotland during the 1980s and 90s in a bid to “unburden himself” and “cleanse his soul” after a whistleblower came forward about his behaviour.

The ailing pensioner, who now lives in South Belfast, named four players he assaulted in the 1980s and 90s while he coached at youth clubs in West Lothian and later Celtic, expressing remorse for what he had done.

Having been in protective custody since December last year when he handed himself in, McCafferty is due to appear at Laganside Magistrates Court on Friday and is expected to plead guilty. Scottish prosecutors are understood to be waiting for the result of the trial to consider whether further charges should be pursued.

The McCafferty case, together with other prominent cases of paedophile abuse against young players, has prompted a massive attempt to clean up coaching, prompted by a Scottish Football Association decree that all affiliated associations must ensure that all officials working with children are positively vetted. Disclosure Scotland undertakes what are known as Protective Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks.

A PVG is the most rigorous check but a person can only be banned under it from working with kids if convicted of a sexual offence. And the PVG scheme is not mandatory, however it is an offence even to seek work with children if barred.

Currently there are 3,083 people barred in Scotland, across all sports and activities and not just football. The Scottish Government is now reviewing whether it should be a legal requirement that all coaches have PVG clearance.

The Scottish Youth Football Association, which has some 15,000 officials and coaches, has come under severe criticism for failing to implement checks. Earlier this year the SYFA admitted that around 1,000 had still not been vetted.

However a senior SFA source described a “seachange in behaviour” at the SYFA which is believed has now seen the backlog cleared with board members and officials stepping in to ensure that an August 31 deadline imposed by a Holyrood committee is met. An announcement is expected from the SYFA in the next few days.

On Friday afternoon, following Sunday Herald inquiries, the SYFA announced that chief executive David Little, who has run the organisation since 1999, would be stepping down. He has been on long-term sick leave following a serious illness.