A YOUTH development coach at a football club has appeared in court, accused of bombarding four boys, one as young as 11, with sexual messages, some of which took place in Clackmannanshire.

Alexander Robertson, 21, of Scottish League Two side Stirling Albion, is said to have "repeatedly" contacted three of the boys, who were aged 13 to 15 at the time, for the purposes of obtaining "sexual gratification or of humiliating, distressing, or alarming" them.

The messages are alleged to have been sent on a number of occasions over a period of some three-and-a-half years between August 2013 and February 2017, during which time it is claimed Robertson repeatedly asked two of the teenagers to accompany him on car journeys and asked the third for pictures of his body.

It alleged he also repeatedly asked the fourth boy, then aged 11 to 14, to accompany him on car journeys, again requesting pictures of his body and eventually inducing him to send him pictures of himself "in a state of undress".

The offences are said to have taken place at Robertson's home in Bridge of Allan, and at other locations in Scotland including Dunblane, Stirling, Clackmannanshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Appearing in the dock at Falkirk Sheriff Court last Tuesday, Robertson, of Fishers Green, spoke only to confirm his name.

Defence solicitor Virgil Crawford said his client pleaded not guilty.

Robertson faces a total of five charges on an indictment, under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act.

Mr Crawford asked for the case to be adjourned for the defence to obtain and study details of a report from Police Scotland's cyber crime unit, and also to allow time to make inquiries "from other organisations".

The lawyer added: "I have also intimated that I wish to see interviews of various witnesses in this case, which were video-recorded.”

Prosecutor Samantha Brown replied: "I will make arrangements for that to be done, but transcripts are available."

Sheriff Craig Caldwell renewed bail, and ordered Robertson to reappear at another preliminary hearing on April 24, when a date may be set for his trial by jury.

The Stirling Albion Supporters' Trust, which owns the club, revealed only on Monday that Robertson had been suspended since the allegations came to light last year.

The trust added that it was arranging an "independent inquiry into the chronology of events" to determine why it had not been "promptly informed".

Club chairman and operations director Stuart Brown was suspended on Sunday pending the outcome of the inquiry.

Trust officials said the club first made them aware of the allegations and the police investigation "a matter of days ago".

A spokesman said: "It is important to make clear that there is no suggestion that either Mr Brown or any other club official has acted illegally or colluded in these alleged offences.

"We note that the club's child protection policy was reviewed internally in August 2017 to the satisfaction of the youth department. However, we will now additionally arrange for a thorough independent review of all child protection protocols within the Stirling Albion football family.

"Due to ongoing legal proceedings, no further comment can be made at this time."