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England's World Cup stars: what their teachers say

They've broken a 28-year jinx by making it to tonight's semi-final. But were our players always a class act?

Harry Kane

They've broken a 28-year jinx by making it to tonight's semi-final. But were our players always a class act?

As England's footballers prepare for tonight's vital World Cup match against Croatia, they have the nation's hopes and dreams resting on their shoulders.

Do they have the requisite grit, determination and talent to get through to the final against France? Perhaps their former teachers can offer some clues.

Jordan Pickford

England's lauded keeper always showed huge promise as a pupil at St Robert of Newminster RC School in Washington, according to his old PE teacher Alan Fisher. 

Luckily his talent didn't go to his head. "He is a mentally stable individual and it is a privilege to have taught him," said Fisher, speaking to the Sunderland Echo.

Kyle Walker

The right-back was a "very excitable, happy, buzzing little lad", said Eileen Hetherington, his former head of year at High Storrs School in Sheffield.

"He wasn’t arrogant at school, he wasn’t strutting about, he was just a down to earth young man who enjoyed having a laugh with his mates," she added.

John Stones

The Manchester City defender needed a growth mindset to get where he is today, said Paul Crook, who was Stones' PE teacher at Penistone Grammar School in Barnsley, and is now the principal.

"We did see the talent early on, but it didn’t come naturally to him, he had to work hard," he said.

Harry Maguire

He was responsible for England's first goal against Sweden, but in an alternative life he "probably" would have been an accountant, his school's deputy headteacher Sue Cain told the Derbyshire Times.

The "remarkable pupil" achieved A and A* grades at St Mary’s Catholic High School in Chesterfield, thanks to a "good attitude", revealed Ms Cain.

Jordan Henderson

Like his team-mate Harry Maguire, England's vice-captain stood out at school because of his hard-working attitude.

“He was always one of the best players anyway, but it was his attitude more than anything which stood out," Dave Robinson, a PE teacher at Farringdon Community Academy, told the Sunderland Echo.

Kieran Trippier

There was never any doubting the Spurs' player's football ability, but "chirpy" Kieran Trippier nearly went down the wrong path as a schoolboy at Woodhey High School in Bury, according to Lee Garcka, his PE teacher.

But mentoring by his headteacher and others helped to hone his "cockiness" and "edge" into something more productive, The Telegraph reports.

Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard's school football coach feared the midfielder was too "slight" to make it to club level. But, said Craig Milburn from Beamont Collegiate Academy in Warrington, his stature grew to match his talent. 

"His awareness...set him apart. He knew whatever was going on around him on the field," he told The Express.

Dele Alli

The other goal-scorer against Sweden, Dele Alli, was "a very talented boy" who seems to have kept his head down at school, Andy White, the head of PE at the Radcliffe School in Milton Keynes, told ITV News Anglia.

"When he was here, he was really calm, mild-mannered, very polite," he said.

Ashley Young

As a Year 8 pupil, 33-year-old Ashley Young was praised for his ability and "cooperation" in PE lessons.

He also showed strong resilience, according to Andy Braithwaite who taught PE at the John Henry Newman School, in Stevenage, at the time. "He never gave up. He was dropped and still trained hard – and now he has made it. He's a great example to everybody who wants to do that," Mr Braithwaite said.

Raheem Sterling

"Raheem had everything, he had a determination about him," said Paul Lawrence, a teacher at Ark Elvin Academy in Wembley, which used to be called Copland Community School.

He added: "He had great skills, great pace, great vision. Always looked to create chances. I used to say to him at times: 'You need to be more greedy and go for goal yourself.'"

Harry Kane

Like David Beckham, Kane went to Chingford Foundation School. “Harry was clever, articulate and very humble,” English teacher Denis McElligott told The Guardian.

But McElligott added: “If we were struggling during a game, the tactic would be ‘Just give it to Harry’, and he would smash one in from the corner flag.”

Marcus Rashford

As a teenager, 20-year-old Marcus Rashford juggled his studies at Ashton on Mersey School, in Sale, while playing in the Premier League.

The morning after scoring two goals for Manchester United against Arsenal, he was in the sixth-form common room playing a game of pool, headteacher Aidan Moloney revealed to The Telegraph.

His school ensured he stayed grounded. "The fact is that Marcus has not achieved anything yet in terms of his football career," said Mr Moloney back in 2016, after his pupil had scored those big goals. "He’s done very well with an opportunity he has received, and that’s as far as it goes at this point."

Danny Welbeck

"Danny was always very humble, never gloated about what he was doing...He was always keen to represent school. No ego. Always polite," said the Arsenal player's old PE teacher Darren Westmoreland, who taught at Trinity Church of England High School in Hulme, Manchester.

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